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President 1928. 


Hon. Treasurer. 

Hon. Secretary. 


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IN every art or craft down to the humblest we instinctively 
figure the procedure as a struggle with something that is 
not ourselves : with some kind of ' matter ' that resists in 
different ways and with varying tenacity. The desired pro- 
duct has to be presented to one or more of the senses as the 
mind has seen it ; the vision has to be expressed, and expres- 
sion means communication. Still, I agree with Professor 
Alexander 1 that the artist 'does not, in general, first form 
an image (if he be a poet, say) of what he wants to express, 
but finds out what he wanted to express by expressing it '. 

This is more especially true of the art of words ; and in the 
present essay I shall keep to poetry, and for the most part 
to high or serious poetry. The resistance of words is not like 
that of stone or wood. The simper of an oar or of a boome- 
[rang must have a clear mental picture of the thing before he 
sets to work. Formally speaking, his task is one of subtrac- 
tion ; guided by the pattern in his head, he cuts away part of 
the wood, which resists him according to its own law. The 
material is dead. But words are * not absolutely dead things ' ; 
words have a stubborn life of their own. They are irreducible ; 
they have been shaped, for the most part unawares, by a 
million dead and living artificers ; and they put up a stiffer 
resistance than a block. On the other hand, they have begun 
to do our work for us already if only we can find them. 
But where, then, are they ? 

The carver can hardly escape the fancy that his oar is 
really, and not only potentially, in the block, and that he 
is merely, as it were, unpacking it. So, too, the poet is sure 
that the mot unique, which will tell him what he is trying to 
mean, exists somewhere, and that he has only to find it, or 

1 Artistic Creation and Cosmic Creation, p. 8 (Proceedings of British 
Academy, 1928). 


(in a * wise passiveness ') to wait for it. This may be an 
illusion ; there may be no such word ; and, if so, there is 
something wrong with his half-formed conception. But if it 
does exist, then it is in ' the back of his head ', that is, in the 
disorderly stores of his mental dictionary. These stores are 
much smaller, and for artistic purposes more select, than the 
contents of the Oxford English Dictionary. But externally, 
they all are, or ought to be, in that treasure-house. How 
much smaller is the poet's stock, and on what principle is it 
selected? What kinds of word, to be found in the O.E.D., 
offer him most resistance, and in what varying degrees 1 
Well, the O.E.D. itself offers certain clues ; but as the theme 
is an endless one I can only suggest headings. 


In the preface to the Dictionary there is a star-shaped 
diagram (vol. i, p. xvi), made to represent the stable and the 
changing elements in the language. In the midst is lingua 
communis, the body of words in general use, the ' nucleus or 
central mass of many thousand words whose "Anglicity " is 
unquestioned '. Above is the term ' literary ', and below is 
* colloquial ', sinking down into ' slang '. Various rays show 
the perpetual process by which words come into this common 
stock, and either stay there, or go out again into limbo more 
or less completely : foreign words, dialect words, scientific and 
technical words. There is no definite ' quota '; the immigrants 
take their chances of making a living. 

This scheme may be filled up in order to indicate the 
resources, or temptations, of the poet. Keeping the central, 
or common language (1) with its upward and downward 
tendencies, and going clockwise from the top, we may specify 
the following groups : (2) Biblical words ; (3) archaic ; (4) 
' poetic diction ' in the narrower sense (with two subdivisions, 
(a) kennings and (b) compound words) ; (5) foreign words ; 
(6) dialect ; (7) slang and very homely words ; (8) technical 
words ; (9) scientific ; and (10) philosophical (including some 
theological) terms, which bring us round the clock again into 


the upper regions of language. It is plain that neighbouring 
groups run into one another, and that there are many cross 
lines ; and, further, that some groups will resist the poet much 
more than others, and that for diverse reasons. His success, 
naturally, can only be judged by the event ; defeat can seldom 
be predicted as a matter of course ; and there are few taboos 
on a priori grounds. The present sketch must be severely 
limited, and certain vital matters must be ruled out. One of 
these is the sound of words (a great topic, of which one 
chapter would deal with the poetic use of discords). Every 
word, from the poet's point of view, has three aspects, which 
can be separated, if only for analysis : (a) the sound ; (fc) the 
definition, or intellectual content, which is given by the lexico- 
grapher ; and (r) the associations, or aura, to which the poet 
and his hearers are alive. Turn, in the O.E.D., or in Johnson, 
from the masterly definitions to the examples, and it is plain 
how little of (c) can be comprehended in (6). In the groups 
now to be noticed the aura is sometimes stronger and some- 
times fainter ; and the fainter it is the greater the resistance 
that the poet must experience. 


Another limitation, which will at once provoke protest, 
must be observed here as far as possible. I shall keep mostly 
to vocabulary, or single words ; and this, it will be truly said, 
is to miss out most of the poetry. All, of course, depends on 
their setting, on their metrical union into a poetic phrase. 
Like Browning's musician, the poet makes out of three sounds 
* not a fourth sound, but a star '. Yet this very fact dispenses 
us from saying too much about no. 1, the central speech. For 
here all, or almost all, depends on the setting. We know 
what may be done with the commonest monosyllables : 

Long is the way 
And hard, that out of Hell leads up to light. 

Difficilis ascensus : this ' sentiment ', as Addison would have 
called it, soars above the speaker and occasion and becomes 
a truth universal. It owes its power, in point of form, to the 


commonness of the words; to the two grammatical inver- 
sions, the first pf them enforced by a metrical inversion that 
comes late in the line and is thus doubly emphatic ; to the 
doubled stress, also late, in ' le&ds up ' ; to the sudden addi- 
tion, or sighed-out after-thought, ' and hard ', coming after 
the line-pause ; to the placing of * Hell ' and ' light ', which 
bear all the weight. But this kind of dissection is beyond 
my text. Happily no amount of it can spoil, or so I believe, 
the effect. In any case the lingua communis leaves little to 
be said about vocabulary. The words taken singly (except 
1 Hell ') would not much arrest attention. 

It is otherwise with the remaining groups, 2-10. Most of 
these are like the ' aliens ', each of them wearing his own 
dress, whom the citizens, says Aristotle, at once notice in 
their streets. This is the simile that he uses in the Rhetoric 
for ' strange ' words. Here the common words, the citizens in 
their daily garb, provide the setting and the contrast. The 
effect depends upon the strangers being able to make good 
their presence ; contrast must end in harmony. Poetry, of 
course, is sown all over with the failures, with experiments 
that startle and leave us cold ; but I will touch rather on the 


(2) Biblical and kindred words. Of these, for similar 
reasons, there will be less to say. They are the fine flower 
of the ' common ' speech, and therefore few of them, by them- 
selves, are specially arresting, except those which have an 
exclusively sacred association. It is rather their sustained 
use that gives character to a style. The words that stand 
out, taken singly, are either suggestive of doctrine (oblation, 
sanctify, elect (noun), and atonement) ; or, like predestination 
(which is not in the Bible), they belong to group 10, or, like 
manna, they are now in metaphorical use, but easily suggest 
the Hebrew story. Or, again, they are practically out of use 
and have to be learnt (ouches, cockatrice, wimple). That is, if 
used at all, they are 

(3) Archaic words. For these the poets have found their 



chief storehouse in the glossary of Spenser. He, as we know, 
besides coining on his own account, also used dialect (No. 6). 
His followers, like Giles and Phineas Fletcher, took some of 
his vocabulary ; and the later race of imitators did the same, 
so that his language in their hands was a revived archaism. 
In the Castle of Indolence, with its ' soft-embodied fays ' and 
* with all these sounds y-blent ', it is often as beautiful and 
successful as with Spenser himself. But here, and with other 
Spenserians like Croxall and Shenstone and William Thomp- 
son, who also did well, the virtue lies less in the single words, 
in ' beautiful things made new ', than in the general tint of 
the language and in the echoed music. Spenser himself has 
the good word of great poets and of all readers for his 
invention ; his c no language ' has, I have remarked else- 
where, more poetic life in it than any of the actual dialects 
of England. The felicity of his old-new words needs no 
praise; but his moderation in the use of them is less often 
noticed. In a catalogue they seem numerous; but they do 
not, in fact, bulk very large in the mass of his verse, at least 
after the date of the Shepherd's Calendar. Spelling apart, 
and not counting the slight twist given to certain inflexions, 
these strange words are like an occasional gleam of gold or 
purple in the pattern ; or like precious or semi-precious 
stones sparkling here and there from the inlay of an Eastern 
tomb. Sometimes they come in a cluster ; in descriptions of 
pageantry, armour, and dress Spenser is tempted to accumu- 
late them. The effect is a new emphasis ; and the loose, 
iterative style of the Faerie Queene is for the moment braced 
up. Belphoebe wears a silken camus, besprinkled with golden 
aygulets, and 

Pur fled upon with many a golden plight. 
On her brows sit many graces, 

Working belgards, and amorous ret rate ; 
And she wears 

gilden buskins of costly cordwaine, 
All bard with golden bendes, which were entayld 
With curious mtickes, and full faire aumayld. 


It is the dress of a masquer ; some of these words failed to 
stay, or to stay long, even in poetry ; but the picture is none 
the worse for that. An instance, thoroughly Spenserian in 
tone, may be added from Thomas Hardy : 

A little chamber, then, with swan and dove 
Kanged thickly, and engrailed with rare device 
Of reds and purples, for a paradise. 

The peculiar idiom of William Morris is to be found apart, 
that is, from his perverse Beowulf chiefly in his prose stories; 
and there, to my own ear, the effect is harmonious and delight- 
ful. The language, second nature to the writer, soon becomes 
so to the hearer. The case of Chatterton, with his many pre- 
tended, and often incongruous, archaisms, is a special one. 
To value them aright and to feel his genius, it is best to 
forget all philology and to use a bare glossary. 


(4) ' Poetic diction' in the restricted sense. It must be 
enough to refer to the special features found in (a) ' kennings ' 
and (b) compound terms. But these two can hardly be 
separated, seeing that the kenning is often a compound single 
word, though often a group of divided words. The Old Norse 
term for a circumlocutory word or phrase is a convenient 
one for many usages, all of the same genus. Such are the 
periphrases in Old Norse and Old English verse; in Milton 
and his imitators ; in Pope and his imitators ; and those in 
Tennyson. The 'swan-road', the 'All-wielder', l Pale-neb ' 
[vulture], the ' Sanctities of Heaven ', the ' speckled fry ' 
[trout], the 'chalice of the grapes of God', and the 'hard- 
grained Muses of the cube and square', all aim at rousing 
the fancy ; they call a thing not by its name but in a manner 
which at once describes and half-conceals it. They are in the 
nature of easy riddles. The Old English Riddles, which are 
whole poems, are harder ; but the principle is the same. In 
the Old Norse ' court poetry ' Jcennings tend to become dis- 
tressing enigmas, and are a mark of decline. In our eighteenth- 


century jargon (the * finny race ', &c.) the poet's fancy is dead 
and he is following the line of least resistance doing the 
easiest thing he can. 1 But kennings, of one sort or another, 
are deep in the very nature of poetry and of all impassioned 
speech. They can be designed for beauty and dignity ; but 
then they must not be obscure, or the dignity is in danger. 
In Milton they are used majestically. John the Baptist is 
4 the great Proclaimer ' ; and there are the ' grand infernal 
Peers', with 'Hell's dread Emperor', their 'mighty Para- 
mount'. But these are phrases, not single words. In Old 
English single compound words, as well as phrases, are of 
course inherent in the poetic language. Here I will only 
refer to Professor Wyld's paper on ' Diction and Imagery in 
Anglo-Saxon Poetry ', 2 where the analogies with eighteenth- 
century verse are brought out, and which throws so much 
light on the artistic problem ; namely, on how far these 
expressions were, at the time of writing, and now are, alive. 
Many became mere formulae ; but the total effect, beyond 
a doubt, is one of great beauty and expressiveness. 

As for the compounds in our later poetry, they still await 
an equally instructive treatment ; they are matter for a book. 
Naturally, they arc most in favour with our concentrative 
poets, such as Gray, Keats, and Dante Rossetti ; although 
from Shakespeare, too, especially in his tragedies, they seem 
to pour out spontaneously, when he is moved to be elemental 
and tremendous : 

You sulphurous and thought-executing fires, 
Vaunt-couriers of oak-cleaving thunderbolts . . . 

Of the slow studious writers, Eossetti seems to depend 
least on Miltonic or other tradition, and to experiment most 
freely. In one sonnet of the House of Life occur cloud-control, 
moontrack, fire-tried (vows), and still-seated (secret of the 

1 For a systematic account of this habit, and of others which I am not 
attempting to discuss (Latinism, personification, abstraction, &c.), see 
Dr. Thomas Quayle's work, Poetic Diction (in the eighteenth century), 

8 Essays and Studies of the English Association, 1925, vol. xi. 


grove). The first and last of these are dubious ; but Bossetti 
has many splendid examples, as in the line 

The ground-whirl of the perished leaves of hope ; 
and again : 

Close-kissed and eloquent of still replies 
Thy twilight-hidden glimmering visage lies. 

Such compounds as xun-glimpaes, involving two weighted 
syllables together, make the rhythm slower and more solemn ; 
and indeed this is the general effect of poetic compounds. So 
with Keats : 

Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briers among. 

And it follows that such forms encounter the check, offered 
everywhere in English, by knots of consonants : and this has 
either to be eluded, or justified by the purpose. In Keats's 
line, no doubt, the rush of the sibilants answers to the hiss 
of the wind. 

(5) Little need be said of foreign words not yet acclima- 
tized, which are too distracting to do much good in serious 
poetry. They chiefly befit middle verse of the humorous or 
ironical kind. Dryden took his risks in the pleasant line 

To taste the fraischeur of the summer air. 

But the word was not wanted and did not gain a footing. 
Thomas Hardy speaks of ' the formal-faced cohue ', where 
* mob ', or ' throng ', was not sufficiently contemptuous. But 
these terms, which give trouble to the lexicographers, have to 
be well installed in the language before they can serve the 
imagination aright. 


(6) Dialect words. Here is matter for another volume. 
Professor George Gordon 1 selects some twenty such words 
from Shakespeare, observing that ' most of them are rather 
forcible than pretty, and have more pith and village realism 
than poetry '. Not the least notable is the thunderous verb, 
in King Lear, 

Gallow the very wanderers of the dark. 
1 Shakespeare's English, Tract no. xxix, S. P. E. t p. 269. 


It means ' to terrify ', and is chosen by the poet to terrify us. 
These aliens have a different franchise from Scots or Dorset 
or Lincolnshire words scattered in a regular dialect poem ; or, 
as with Burns and Fergusson, in one written in the Northern 
variety of the national speech. Here, of course, the strangeness 
is greater for the Southern reader than for the Scot ; but even 
the Scot has to learn the language. The Northern words, 
forms, and sounds, being mostly concerned with concrete 
things, have all the sap and colour of home-grown fruits, and 
are not properly ' strange ' at all. Gentler effects are produced 
by Barnes ; and the soft Dorset speech is used to perfection, 
though more sparsely, by Hardy with his apple-blooih, and 
poppling brew, and leazes lone. 


(7) We are now down near the foot of the clock, with slang 
and its congeners, which touch dialect on one side, and technical 
terms (no. 8) on the other. These last are trade-slang, or 
trade-dialect, and I pass on to them, as slang would introduce 
the large subject of what may be called frontier- verse, and the 
lower limits of the poetic vocabulary. Ugly, grotesque, or 
gross words, I will only remark, may be made clean and 
presentable, and lifted into poetry (as we see in Juvenal), by 
indignation. His satires, most people will agree, are poetry. 
Mr. Sludge the Medium, though it contains no one word that 
is ' taboo ', is below the line, and there is only a scrap or two 
of poetry in it. We can only decide here by net impressions, 
and single words count for little. 

(8) As to technical words, they are stubborn things, because 
the bare meaning is everything and is usually concrete and 
prosaic. The aura is not there already, and the poet has to 
make it. The thing can be done; M'Andrew has done it. 
His engine is to him a poem that illustrates the works of the 
Lord and the reign of law : 

Prom coupler-flange to spindle-guide I see Thy Hand, O God. 
This is poetry of a kind, and I will not quote instances where 


the effect is overdone. Still, these effects are not normal in 
highly pitched verse. 

Shakespeare's notorious use of law-terms in impassioned 
speech is harder to judge. They must have had more colour 
and feeling in them for him than we can detect ; although, no 
doubt, they are one species of the ' quibbles ' that Johnson 
condemned. Romeo's sentence, 

seal with a righteous kiss 
A dateless bargain to engrossing death 

is a really bad quibble. And how many of the thousand 
lovers who have repeated the line 

My bonds in thee are all determinate 

have been checked by the legal image ? Probably very few. 
Shakespeare is like the Bible ; we know him so well that we 
do not notice difficulties. 


But such terms border on (9) Scientific vocabulary. Milton 
enlists more hard words of this kind than any other great 
English poet. Some of them check every reader, and have to 
be learned : colure, cycle^ epicycle, thwart, obliquities. They 
belong to the extinct astronomy, with its astrological implica- 
tions. These, indeed, survived it, and are now perceptible in 
' lucky star ' and such expressions : and horoscopes die hard. 
Predominant and influence remain as metaphors, or abstracts, 
with very little physical suggestion. They are a section of the 
very large class discussed by Miss Elizabeth Holmes in her 
article * on ' Milton's Use of Words '. The words in question, 
mostly of Latin origin, retained for Milton, and often for his 
contemporaries, an aura of their original, physical meanings : 
and this we must recover, if we are to appreciate them. He 
brought out, or brought back, their latent appeal to the 
senses. How Young, Thomson, and others echoed Milton in 
this matter and usually came to grief, is an old story. A 
different and very adroit use of technical and scientific terms 

1 Essays and Studies of the English Association, 1924, vol. x. 


is found in Tennyson's Privicess. He wrote at a moment 
when the common language was being enriched by the new 
science, in a degree not to be paralleled since Renaissance 
times. Telegraph and parachute and catalepsy still spoke to 
the fancy, and Tennyson scatters them in his fanciful verse. 
Geology, too, was coming home to the popular mind : and he 
picks out, for the sake of their sound and strangeness, 

rag and trap and tuff, 
Amygdaloid and trachyte. 


(10) Philosophical and kindred words. As we know, some 
of the masters, Plato and Berkeley and Hume (being also 
men of letters), can write, and often do write, with very little 
stiff terminology. They are all the more elusive, perhaps, 
for that reason : but they make everything seem easy. The 
poets who try to expound abstract ideas and to inlay scholastic 
terms meet with a very palpable resistance from language. 
Many such terms, of course, have no association with the 
senses, or fringe of imagery. The -ologies are out of the 
question, like logic and ethics. Has the noun complex yet 
reared its horrid head in a modern lyric? Probably. It 
belongs to our No. 7, slang. But there are poets who can 
philosophize without danger. Spenser, in his Hymn of Love, 
and Hymn of Beauty, steers his bark wonderfully ; and even in 
his ' trinal triplicities on high ' (the nine orders of subordinate 
heavenly beings) he does not go aground. But the great 
performer in this region is Lucretius ; and he is the harder 
pressed, because he is expounding physics, where the terms 
have strict senses and sharp edges : plenum, inane, primordia 
rerum. How Lucretius, when he is stirred, can make these 
words glow, needs no description. One of his greatest effects 
is produced by a word from the Greek, which the poverty of 
Latin, so he tells us, forces him to borrow although the meaning 
is easy to explain. It is the theory that every object consists 
of tiny particles of its own shape and kind : 

Nunc et Anaxagorae scrutemur homoeomerian. 


Theological terms often have a very rigid sense : essence, 
attribute, necessity r , foreknowledge, coeternal. But they can 
serve poetry, because their associations, religious, historical, 
and imaginative are manifold. The Athanasian Creed has 
made some of them familiar. Milton does not shrink from 
them, and is often nobly justified. Light is 

Bright effluence of bright essence increate ; 
and the line 

Fixed fate, freewill, foreknowledge absolute 
is an example of great poetry that is wholly destitute of 
imagery and lives on its intellectual evocations. Yet, as 
though Milton felt the danger, in the next line lie brings the 
idea down to earth perhaps to the Cretan labyrinth? 

And found no end, in wandering mazes lost. 

Another of these tough words is predestination. Magnificent 
in sound, and sinister in meaning, it is nevertheless hard to 
animate in verse. Milton, in one of his dogmatic passages, 
hardly succeeds : 

As if predestination overruled 

Their will, disposed by absolute decree 

Or high foreknowledge. 

But M 'Andrew, 1 believe, succeeds once more, though it be by 
violence : 

Predestination in the stride o* yon connectin'-rod. 
This, again, is a feat : -it is verse, with a ring of poetry. On 
the whole, the English writers like Spenser, or his follower 
Sir John Davies in Nosce Teipsum, have prevailed rather by 
shunning than by challenging the diction of the schools. 

Can we now grade these diverse groups of words in the 
measure of their reluctance to become poetical ? Leaving out 
slang and the like, and also the half- English foreign importa- 
tions, which scarcely count, the result seems to be this. 
Technical words are by no means quite intractable, but have 


less aura than the rest. Scientific words, in the past at any 
rate, have had more, especially at the two great seasons of 
their immigration, the Renaissance and the age of Darwin. 
Some philosophical and theological terms, in spite of their 
stubborn intellectual content and natural bareness, have rich 
associations for the poet, if only he can partially submerge 
that content and make play with the undefined element. 
Kennings and single-word compounds are inherent in the 
poetic language ; they often betray their date, and may easily 
be a bad symptom ; but they are never far off, and at their 
best they may almost be poems in themselves the shortest 
poems possible. Arthaic words, though not thus inherent in 
poetic language, are triumphantly managed by a very few 
masters. Biblical words and the lingua communis generally, 
especially in its higher ranges, need offer no resistance at all ; 
and depend, therefore, more than all the rest, on their neigh- 
bours, their order, and their metrical value. The poet, and 
perhaps every reader, may know all this without being told ; 
but analysis never does any harm to our understanding, or to 
our enjoyment, of poetry. OLIVER ELTON. 

B ;2 


JN March. 1581, a brilliant undergraduate went into residence 
at Benet College, Cambridge. He came up from the King's 
School, Canterbury, with a scholarship on the Parker founda- 
tion, which required the holder, on completing his University 
career, to enter the Church. He took hi?? degree and kept his 
terms during the six years' tenure of the scholarship, and 
proceeded master of arts in 1587. Then just at the date when 
he should have rounded oft' this eminently respectable career 
with the style and title of ' the reverend Christopher Marlowe ' 
and the prospect of a college living in later life, the authorities 
at Cambridge and at Canterbury must have heard with deep 
pain that their promising young scholar was following a very 
different lure and had decided that his gifts of literary 
expression would find freer scope on the stage than in the 
pulpit. He was producing a play called Tamburlaine the 
Great, original alike in form and in conception and destined 
to be much more than a contemporary success : it stands out 
for all time as one of the landmarks of English drama. 

The type of character depicted in Tamburlaine recurs IE 
Doctor Faustus, but in" a text so corrupted and overlaid by the 
work of other writers, mere playhouse hacks, that in only 
a fragment of the whole can we trace with certainty the hand 
of Marlowe. We shall discern more clearly the scope and 
intention of Doctor Faustus if we glance for a moment at 
some characteristic features of the earlier play. 

Tamburlaine is essentially the work of a young man, 
touched with a note of youthful idealism which he never 

1 A Lecture delivered before the Association in London on 9 December, 
1924. For the textual problem raised in the course of the lecture, readers 
are referred to the writer's paper on the 1604 Quarto contributed to 
volume vii of the Association's Essays and Studies. 


recaptured in his later writing ; it has something of the heroic 
quality of Tamburlaine himself 

Of stature tall and straightly fashioned, 
Like his desire, lift upwards and divine. 1 

Writing in this exalted mood, Marlowe gave a new turn lo 
tragedy. He concentrated all his creative power on one 
towering and colossal figure, round which the other characters 
revolve like satellites in the orbit of a planet. </The hero is 
the incarnation of unbridled power, pitiless in the quest of it 
and achieving his aim with superhuman energy, but idealized 
by the soaring imagination of the poet. Marlow varies the 
tones of his instrument, but the louder notes prevail. Yet 
always, whether expressed in gorgeous rhetoric or in pure 
poetry, the note of aspiration is sustained. 

Is it not passing brave to be a king, 
And ride in triumph through Persepolis ? 2 

And the clear, ringing music of that last line so caught the 
poet's ear that he repeated it as a refrain, making blank verse 
lyrical. It is followed by Tamburlaine's scornful question, 

Why then, Casane, should we wish for aught 

The world affords in greatest novelty 

And rest attemptless, faint, and destitute ? 3 

Tamburlaine in this poetic mood even expounds the philosophy 

of ambition : 

Nature, that framed us of four elements 
Warring within our breast for regiment, 
Doth teach us all to have aspiring minds. 
Our souls, whose faculties can comprehend 
The wondrous architecture of the world 
And measure every wandering planet's course, 
Still climbing after knowledge infinite 
And always moving as the restless spheres, 
Will us to wear ourselves and never rest, 
Until we reach the ripest fruit of all, 
That perfect bliss and sole felicity, 
The sweet fruition of an earthly crown. 4 

1 Tamburlaine, Part 1, 11. 461-2, in the Oxford edition of Marlowe by 
C, F. Tucker Brooke, which is quoted in future references. 

2 758-9. 3 777-9. 869-80. 


Still climbing after knowledge infinite ' the words are note- 
worthy as anticipating the theme of Doctor Faustus, which 
probably followed closely on the second part of Tamburlaine ; 
Marlowe seems half-consciously to be moving towards the 
conception of his second play. The quest of infiniteJaiQW- 
ledge is a new^ phasQ J)f^ g^ves it kindred 

treatoLQBi There is little appreciable advance in dramatic 
method. Marlowe had not yet felt his way to a well-knit and 
coherent plot. All the action centres in a single character 
absorbed by a passion which consumes him. Both Tambur- 
laine and Faustus, it may be uoted, are men of low origin. 
Tamburlaine is a shepherd : 

I am a lord, for so my deeds shall prove, 
And yet a shepherd by my parentage. 1 

Of Faustus we are told at once in the prologue that his 
parents were ' base of stock '. High intellectual gifts and 
a boundless energy carry them to their goal. The conception 
i^jsuggestive as comm^|n)m_jiJxe,^on ^.-auCanteibury shoe- 

But if the method of the play of Doctor Faustus is un- 
changed, the material is better suited for dramatic handling. 
Tamburlaine throughout is rhetorical and spectacular ; it is 
not so much a drama as a pageant the triumphal pageant 
3f ambition, impressive indeed by the sheer glory of the 
rerse, but so monotonous in treatment that the two parts 
really make up a cumbrous ten-act play. In Doctor Faustus 
fnuch of Marlowe's original writing has been pared down by 
successive playhouse editors in order to add to the clownery, 
but the main design is clear, it is boldly carried out, and the 
Jieme has great dramatic possibilities. Ifee play^Jg some- 
thing more than a variant of the type depicted in Tombur- 
\aine: it is not a mere study of ambition; 
of a human soul, gffld_inJJb,,o dosing 

^ in 

It is this sense of the inner conflict which makes Doctor 

1 230-1. 


Faustus what the title-page of the early editions expressly 
calls it, a ' Tragical History '. Faustus is depicted in the 
opening scene among his books, turning them over ir- 
resolutely, undecided to what study to devote himself. When 
Valdes advises him to enter upon the study of necromancy, 
he notes that weakness and promises success on one con- 

If learned Faustus will be resolute. 1 

Faustus protests his resolution, but it is noticeable that, 
when his mind is made up and he enters to conjure after 
being instructed in the ritual, he has to reassure himself : 

Then fear not, Faustus, but be resolute, 
And try the uttermost magic can perform. 2 

His spirit ebbs and flows like the tide. In the first flush of 
his success he utters the exultant cry, 

Had I as many souls as there be stars, 
I'd give them all for Mephistophilis. 3 

But when he has time to reflect, he is cowed with hopeless 
doubt : 

Now, Faustus, must thou needs be damned, 
And canst thou not be saved ? 
What boots it then to think of God or heaven ? 
Away with such vain fancies, and despair 
Despair in God, and trust in Belsabub. 
Nay, go not backward : no, Faustus, be resolute. 
Why waverest thou ? O something soundeth in mine ears, 
this magic, turn to God again '/ 


region which only ShalK^ : 

tEese'falnt tracEfo? the pioneer ppint the wa/^to^J^aTy^et 
As the play proceeds, the struggle deepens in intensity. 

When I behold the heavens, then I repent, 5 
Faustus exclaims at one moment, and at the next : 

1 Dr. Faustus, 162, 2 24&-9. 8 388-9. 

4 433-4Q. 612. 


My heart's so hardened I cannot repent : 
Scarce can I name salvation, faith, or heaven, 
But fearful echoes thunder in mine ears 
' Faustus, thou art damned V 

The sensual baits with which Mephistophilis plies his victim 
are subtly graded ; they give an element of artistic relief to 
the phases of suffering and despair. The first attempt is 
quite crude : ' Enter [ Mephistophilis] with devils giving 
crowns and rich apparel to Faustus, and dance, and then 
depart '. 2 Something has been excised from the context at 
least a speech of the presenter. "^Marlowe, with all the rich 
resources of blank verse at his command, did not dismiss 
a temptation with a dumb show and eke it out with a line or 
two of prose cut up into verse lengths. 

1 Speak, Mephistophilis, what means this show ? ' 
1 Nothing, Faustus, but to delight thy mind withal, 
And to show thee what magic can perform.' 3 

We are on firmer ground in the next temptation which 
depicts the thrill of intellectual pleasure. 

Have I not made blind Homer sing to me 
Of Alexander's love and Oenon's death ? 
And hath not he that built the walls of Thebes 
With ravishing sound of his melodious harp 
Made music with my Mephistophilis? 4 

Next come the spectacle of the Seven Deadly Sins, signifi- 
cant in the choice of the performers, and the visit to Rome. 
And throughout, like~a mournful undertone, come reminders 
of the approaching end : 

Now, Mephistophilis, the restless course 
That time doth run with calm and silent foot, 
Shortening my days and thread of vital life, 
Calls for the payment of my latest years/' 

Then^as the clima2^-oL4emgtation and the final triumph of 
the Fiend, i^Th^^ummoning^ up to^arlJi_qfJEtelen_of Troy. 
The rapture of the lost man fin Js utterance in some ^ 

1 629-32. 2 After 514. 3 515-17. 

4 637-41. 1106-9. 


qi^stexquisite _Un_ea that ever came from the pen of 
Marlowe : 

Was this the face that launched a thousand ships 

And burned the topless towers of Ilium ? . . . . 

Oh thou art fairer than the evening air 

Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars ; 

Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter 

When he appeared to hapless Semele, 

More lovely than the monarch of the sky 

Iia wanton Arethusa's azured arms ; 

And none but thou shalt be my paramour. 1 

Instantly thivS radiant vision fades, and he passes to the 
darkness of the end. The last scene reveaLsjjfl^xijbility. x>f 
style, a capacity for varying the range oFthejlnstrument, for 
whiciTweJbok in vain in the clanging verse. Qf^&mburluine- 
It is a noteworthy advance in poetic .art. The scene opens 
significantly with a dialogue in prose. Very little of the 
prose which has come down to us as Marlowe's can be 
regarded as unquestionably his, but here at any rate I feel no 
hesitation, and the point^ important in view of Shake- 
speare's practice later: ^Marlowe, reaching the crisis of his 
play, pitches the first note in this quiet key. 2 Faustus 
enters with three scholars, who had been students with him at 
Wittenberg ; one of them a close intimate, who had been his 
chamber-fellow. Old memories stir within him at the sight 
of them and effect a startling change : the world magician, 
face to face with grim reality, becomes profoundly simple. 
He turns, as any common man would turn, to his fellow men 
for sympathy. ' Ah my sweet chamber-fellow ! had I lived 
with thee, then had I lived still, but now I die, eternally : 
look, comes he not ? Comes he not ? ' They try to comfort 
him : ' 'Tis but a surfeit never fear, man.' ' A surfeit of 
deadly sin ', he answers, ' that hath damned both body and 
soul/ He is advised to look up to heaven and trust God's 
infinite mercy. ' But Faustus' offence can ne'er be pardoned. 
The serpent that tempted Eve may be saved, but not 
Faustus.' His mind then travels back to his past life and 

1 1328-9, 1341-7. - 1359 if. 


the use which he has made of it. Though my heart pants 
and quivers to remember that I have been a student here 
these thirty years, oh, would I had never seen Wertenberg, 
never read book : and what wonders I have done, all 
Germany can witness, yea, all the world, for which Faustus 
hath lost both Germany, and the world yea, heaven itself, 
heaven, the seat of God, the throne of the blessed, the 
kingdom of joy, and must remain in hell for ever, hell, ah 
hell for ever ? Sweet friends, what shall become of Faustus, 
being in hell for ever ? ' * Yet, Faustus, call on God/ ' On God, 
whom Faustus hath abjured, on God, whom Faustus hath 
blasphemed! Ah, my God, I would weep, but the Devil 
draws in my tears. Gush forth blood instead of tears yea, 
life and soul! ^Oh he stays my tongue, I would lift up my 
hands, but see, they hold them, they hold them ! ' \ 
~S The prose is strong and vivid, and it is heightened by a 
plangent note which makes it a fit prelude for the verse 
which follows. Faustus is left alone, with but one hour to 
live, and the conflict of feeling within him shows itself now 
by a direct and simple line wrung from him by the im- 
minent horror of the end, and again by a sudden flight of 
poetic fancy, the expression of his over-charged emotion : 

/ Ah Faustus, 

l Now hast thou hut one bare hour to live, 
And then thou must be damned, perpetually. 
Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven, 
That time may cease, and midnight never come. 

He prays that this final hour may be but 

A year, a month, a week, a natural day, 
That Faustus may repent, and save his soul. 
lente, lente currite noctis equi. 1 

Mere too his mind goes back to the wst ; he is quoting Ovid, 
the prayer of a lover in his mistress's arms that the horses of 
the chariot of the night may move sloN^ly across the sky. 
There is a grim irony in the^yDgli^^ 
theag^^t^^of the" Sensualist wimjmd nl^n^ Helftn for 
his paramour, "~ """" 

1 1426-8. 


Dream quickly gives way to reality, and the verse vividly 
reflects the change. First, there is a line of monosyllables broken 
by quiet pauses ; then the pent-up agony finds expression, 
in turbid and broken rhythms. Nowhere in the whole range 
of Marlowe's work is there a sharper contrast to the normal 
movement of his lines. The superb imaginative power of the 
passage further deepens its artistic significance. A mirage of 
blood the blood of Christ, as Faustus supposes flickers 
before his straining eyes : 

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike, 

The devil will come, and Faustus must be damned. 

Oh I'll leap up to my God : who pulls me down? 

See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmament : 

One drop would save my soul half a drop ah my Christ ! 

Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ : 

Yet will I call on him oh spare me, Lucifer ! l 

There is a rapid change of vision. He sees God frowning 
angrily upon him ; and now he quotes, not Ovid, but the 
Bible : 

Mountains and hills, come, come and fall on me ; 
And hide me from the heavy wrath of God. 2 

The half-hour strikes: spent with agony, he pleads for a 
respite ; the voice dies away into a moan. 

Oh God, 

If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul, 
Yet for Christ's sake, whose blood hath ransomed me, 
Impose some end to my incessant pain. 8 

j.ii this last interval his mind wanders off to a fanciful specu- 
lation about the Pythagorean doctrine of metempsychosis., 
Iff our ears this has a hollow ring at such a moment ; but we 
^nust remember that Faustus is a supreme embodiment of 
Renaissance feeling, and that in t.h i ajmrit he fai ibfullff 
reflects the spirit of his crj3aJ^r-~Xffe is pouring out the 
curses of despair when midnight strikes ; and as the thunder 
peals and the lightning flashes around him, one last gleam of 
poetry lights up his dying utterance : 

1 1429-35. 2 1438-9. 3 1452-5. 


O soul, be changed into little water-drops, 
And fall into the ocean, ne'er be found. 1 

The fiends rush in upon their prey, and he passes from human 
view with a sharp convulsive wail hideous in its realism : 

My God, my God, look not so fierce on me ! 
Adders and serpents, let me breathe a while ! 
Ugly hell, gape not ! Come not, Lucifer ! 
I'll burn my books ah Mephistophilis ! 2 

But the artist in Marlowe shrank from closing the tragedy 
on that wild shriek of pain. The Chorus enters and in soft 
tones speaks the dead scholar's epitaph : 

Out is the branch that might have grown full straight, 
And burned is Apollo's laurel bough. 3 

The last sound in our ears is the note of pure poetry, v 

The greatness of this closing scene may perhaps be recog- 
nized more clearly by briefly examining the attempts to 
amplify it in a later playhouse version. I have quoted 
throughout from the earliest extant text, the quarto of 1604. 
But a much fuller version was published in 1616. This ivS 
sometimes very helpful in supplying lines which have dropped 
out of the carelessly printed text of its predecessor. But it is 
heavily interpolated, and its alterations at the crisis of the 
play are very instructive. In the first place the censor was 
at work : he is an offensive creature at all times, but he is at 
his worst when he hunts a religious trail. He excised the 
great imaginative line, 

See, see where Christ's blood streams in the firmament. 
He disapproved of the poignant appeal, 

If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul. 

The theology is quite harmless in his resetting of it, 

Oh if my soul must suffer for my sin. 

In Faustus' final appeal, ' Oh mercy, heaven ! ' is substituted 
for ' My God, my God ' in the line 

My God, my God, look not so fierce on me ! 
1 1472-3. 2 1474-7. 1478-9. 


In fact the good man was at pains to keep the deity out of 
this questionable business as far as possible. 
VNext he devoted himself to touching up Marlowe's de- 
fective metre. 

One drop would save my soul half a drop ! ah my Christ ! 

This kind of thing, he felt, must be made into blank verse : 
he made it, thus 

One drop of blood would save me, my Christ ! 
In the line 

O soul, be changed into little water-drops, 

the slight hurry of the rhythm at the end of the line suggests 
the movement of the shower of falling drops. The 16 10 
quarto reads 

O soul, be changed into small water-drops ! 

But the supreme effort of the interpolator was to add two 
scenes. In the original text the last persons to talk with 
Faustus were his friends, the three scholars ; they retired into 
another room to pray for him. 1 One would have thought 
that, after the tremendous climax of his passing, no human 
being could have felt the slightest interest in following thesev 
minor characters any further. Faus^^j^^ 

: it was, for him, the snapping of. all 
But theTFevi^eTTSrougSt Ttliem in at the death, 

witlTthe fatuous remark that they had had the worst night 
Since first the world's creation did begin. 2 

Thereupon one of their number discovers Faustus' limbs 
scattered in fragments about the floor. 

^f The treatment of Mephistophilis is even worse. In the 
original his last and crowning temptation, which proves 
completely successful, is to master Faustus with the lure of 

1 In Mr. William Peel's original revival of Faustus in 1896 the centre 
of the platform was a curtained erection like the pageant stage of 
the miracle plays. The scholars stepped outside this on to the plat- 
form and knelt there for the final scene, giving the effect of kneeling 
figures in the lower lights of a stained-glass window. 

2 Appendix, 1480. 


Helen's beauty. Mephistophilis, now secure of his prey, 
vanishes ; his \york is done. The * adders and serpents ', who 
fetch Faustus' soul, are underlingSc/*But the more potent 
spirit is not forgotten : the last cry of his victim as he is 
driven to hell is to shriek out the words ' Ah Mephistophilis ! ' 
Nothing more : but it sums up the series of temptations from 
the moment, twenty-four years earlier, when Faustus first 
conjured up this embodiment of evil and prided himself on 
securing so meek a vassal : 

How pliant is this Mephistophilis, 

Full of obedience and humility ! 

Such is the force of magic, and my spells. 1 

Marlowe, when he wrote Doctor Faustus, was beginning to 
study the subtle links of plot. 

But the adapter intervened. He inserted between the 
prose prelude on which I have commented and the tremendous 
final speech an interlude in which "Mephistophilis reappears 
to mock his victim, seconded in this moral effort by the Good 
and Bad Angels, who torture Faustus with peep-shows of 
Heaven and Hell. The problem of the rival quartos involves 
some serious difficulties which are not likely to be solved 
unless we recover the lost quarto of 1601. Meanwhile we 
must study the play in the earliest and least contaminated 
text, the quarto of 1604, supplementing it with some* genuine 
fragments which are preserved in the text of 1616. 

But even this earliest quarto is clogged with rewritten 
scenes which read like a coarse burlesque of Marlowe's main 
motiver-^ They are not comic episodes worked artistically 
into the scheme of the , play in order to provide an element 
of contrast or relief, ^hey contain nothing that suggests, 
even remotely, any approach to the Shakespearian method by 
which, with incomparable art, a comic scene or character not 
only diversifies but deepens the tragic setting^ Gomedy IB 
any form, and I am afraid particularly in the form of horse- 
play, appealed to an audience on the Bankside; and some- 
times, if their craving for it was not satisfied, there was 
trouble at the theatre. Edmund Gayton, in his Pleasant 

1 264-6. 


Notes upon Don Quixote, published in 1651, describes the 
humours of the seventeenth-century playgoer on a holiday 
afternoon when, as he puts it, ' sailors, waterinen, shoe- 
makers, butchers, and apprentices are at leisure '. /lt is inter- 
esting to learn that Marlowe took with such an audience. 
1 1 have known upon one of these festivals, but especially at 
Shrovetide, where the players have been appointed, notwith- 
standing their bills to the contrary, to act what the major 
part of the company had a mind to sometimes Tamerlane, 
sometimes Juyurth, sometimes The Jew of Malta, and some- 
times parts of all these ; none of the three taking, they were 
forced to undress and put off their tragic habits, and conclude 
the day with The Merry Milkmaids. ^ And unless this were 
done as sometimes it so fortuned that the players were 
refractory the benches, the tiles, the laths, the stones, 
oranges, apples, nuts flew about most liberally ! ' } I quote 
one more tribute which, 1 am sure, was taken from the life ; 
it is interesting to find that, so late as 16*25, the devils of the 
old miracle plays were retained in affectionate remembrance. 
In Jonson's Staple of News - Gossip Tattle, airing her theories 
of drama, says : ' My husband, Timothy Tattle God rest his 
poor soul ! was wont to say there was 110 play without a 
Fool or a Devil in't; he was for the Devil still, God bless 
him ! The Devil for his money, would he say ; "I would 
fain see the Devil " '. 2 If Master Timothy Tattle ever saw 
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, he must have felt 
for once that he had got his money's worth : the play at 
least in the form in which we have it abounds in fools and 
devils. And stage-directions such as the following ' Beat 
the Friars, and fling fireworks among them ', 3 or ' Enter 
Mephistophilis : sets squibs at their backs ; they run about ' 4 
show very decisively the quality of the fun. 

Ji^^aa^uld be ludicrous to credit MartowejriJJiJ}^^ 
shjj)ofthis f argtcal_elemen DFcourse, the mere assertion 
that tfie genius of Marlowe'' did not run in the direction of 

1 Pleasant Notes, p. 271. 

2 Staple of News, the first intermean. 

1 After 903. * After 984 


comedy and that his worst extravagances, such as the scene 
of the c pampered jades ' in Tamburlaine, betray a hopeless 
lack of humour though obviously suggestive as criticism 
cannot be accepted off-hand as disproof of the attribution. 
But we can point to some definite evidence. v ; The most im- 
portant is the memorandum of the stage-manager Henslowe 
that on November 22, 1602, he paid four pounds to William 
Bird and Samuel Rowley * for their adicyones in doctor 
fostes'. Occasionally at the revival of an old play which 
had had a successful run, and might therefore be stale to the 
playgoer, a manager had a few new scenes inserted in this 
way as an advertisement- Interpolation can actually be 
traced in the 1604 text.v/In the eleventh scene is a reference 
to Dr. Lopez, Queen Elizabeth's physician, who was hanged 
on the charge of attempting to poison her a year after 
Marlowe's death. There is at least one startling contradic- 
tion in the text : in the opening scene Philip is on the throne 
of Spain ; in the tenth scene the Emperor Charles V appears. 
There are also artistic considerations which point to the 
divided authorship. In one part of the play five scenes in 
succession scenes vii to xi are wholly or mainly comic. 
No author gifted with any true creative faculty could thus 
have thrown the serious side of his subject so completely out 
of focus. The ninth scene can be proved not to be the work 
of Marlowe. Robin, the ostler at an inn where presumably 
Faustus is staying, perhaps somewhere in Germany, but 
the scene-locations are of the haziest has stolen one of 
Faustus 1 conjuring books, and with it he raises Mephisto- 
philis. Now it happens that in the third scene we have 
already had Faustus conjuring. In the darkness of night he 
makes a solemn invocation, using a Latin formula, and a 
devil at once deludes him by appearing. This spirit is dis- 
missed to return in the shape of a Franciscan friar, and 
proves to be Mephistophilis. He explains that he came to 
Faustus, not in obedience to the incantation, but of his own 
accord : 

For when we hear one rack the name of God, 
Abjure the Scriptures and his Saviour Christ, 


We fly, in hope to get his glorious soul ; 
Nor will we come unless he use such means 
Whereby he is in danger to be damned. 
Therefore the shortest cut for conjuring 
Is stoutly to abjure the Trinity 
And pray devoutly to the Prince of Hell. 1 

That is to say, Faustus' spells, which are just those of the 
commonplace practitioner in magic, would of themselves 
have been wholly ineffective, but Mephistophilis gives a 
subtle and sinister reason for obeying them. When Robin 
the clown tries his hand at conjuring, he mouths some 
absolute gibberish which forces Mephistophilis to appear at 
once and makes him complain bitterly to Lucifer, 
From Constantinople am I hither come 
Only for pleasure of these damned slaves. 2 

' How ', says Robin, quite unabashed, although a few minutes 
before he had been running about in terror with burning 
squibs tied to him, ' from Constantinople ? You have had 
a great journey; will you take sixpence in your purse to pay 
for your supper, and be gone ? ' J Marlowe's method of raising 
the devil involved repudiation of the Trinity and devout 
prayer to Lucifer : this vacuous buffoonery, whether it is 
the work of Bird and Rowley or of an earlier interpolator, 
has not even the merit of a parody. 

--/Consider too Marlowe's conception of hell. ' in spite of his 
employing medieval machinery and crudely personifying 
Conscience and Temptation in the archaic figures of the Good 
and Bad Angels, his hell is essentially spiritual. His con- 
temporaries accepted the coarse material view of it as an 
underground torture-chamber for the sinner m which his 
worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched. -J Marlowe put 
aside this convention : Jie^depicts hell 

.suffering infinite in its scope and duration. Mephistophilii 
with mordant irony"~^xpHins TEIs conception to Faustus, 
immediately after he has signed the bond to surrender his 
soul : 

Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed 
In one self place, for where we are is hell, 
1 282-9. 2 995 ff. 

2339'14 C 


And where hell is must we ever be : 
1 And to'conclude, when all the world dissolves, 
And every creature shall be purified, 
All places shall be hell that is not heaven. 1 

A point like this shows us what Goethe meant when he said 
of Marlowe's play, * How greatly it is all planned ; . This 
strength of conception, this clear outlook on the spiritual 
heights, is not found again in English literature until Milton. 
There are passages in the first and fourth books of Paradise 
Lost which almost seem to echo Fauslus. Satan's cry of 
anguish in his address to the Sun strikes this note : 

Me miserable ! which way shall I fly 
Infinite wrath and infinite despair ? 
Which way I fly is Hell ; myself an Hell. 

It would be hazardous to speculate what Milton might, and 
might not, have read in his undergraduate days when he was 
a student of Shakespeare and Ben Jonson. It is possible 
that he read this play, alien though much of it would be to 
his Puritan temper. But of course a coincidence such as this 
need not mean more than that two poets of genius, treating 
in a very different medium the record of a lost soul, drew 
independently on their shaping spirit of imagination and 
emancipated themselves from the meanness of popular theo- 
logy. For his loftiness of conception no less than for the 
deathless music of his verse we can think of Marlowe as 
standing for one moment by the side of Milton. He_rould 
earn no higher tribute. 


1 553-8. 


The Story 

JRENE is based on a story in The Generall Historic of the 
Turkes, by Richard Knolles, a book which Johnson always 
held in the highest regard, and praised in The Rambler as 
displaying ' all the excellencies that narration can admit '. 
But nowhere was he content to versify Knolles's prose, and 
from first to last his play is singularly deficient in allusions 
to be illustrated, or difficulties to be explained, by consulting 
the material on which he worked. It is the divergencies, not 
the similarities, that are of interest, and they are character- 
istic. In general we may say that Johnson was indebted to 
Knolles for little more than the suggestion of his Irene. He 
did not write with a book lying open before him, but once 
having found his subject let it take shape in his own mind. 

The story which is told by Knolles in over three closely 
packed folio pages may thus be given here in brief ; but there 
is one paragraph which must be quoted in full, not so much 
because it wins the attention of every reader and explains 
Johnson's praise of the narrative style, as because it shows 
why Johnson could not follow the story as he found it. He 
gave it a less violent climax, more in harmony with his idea 
of the moral purpose of the drama. 

According to the story, Irene, a Greek of incomparable 
beauty and rare perfection, was made captive at the sack of 
Constantinople in 1453, and handed over to the Sultan 
Mahomet II, who took such delight in her that in a short 
time she became the mistress and commander of the great 
conqueror. ' Mars slept in Venus' lap, and now the soldiers 
might go play/ He neglected the government of his empire 
till the discontent of his subjects threatened the security of 
his throne. Mustapha Bassa, his companion from childhood 
and now his favoured counsellor, thereupon undertook to 
warn him of his danger, and performed the difficult duty 

c 2 


without incurring the effects of hiss anger. Torn awhile by 
contrary passions, the Sultan came to a sudden decision, and 
summoned a meeting of all the Bassas for the next day. 

So the Bassa being departed, he after his wonted manner 
went in vnto the Greeke, and solacing himselfe all that day and 
the night following witli her, made more of her than euer before : 
and the more to please her, dined with her ; commanding, that 
after dinner she should be attired with more sumptuous apparell 
than euer she had before worne : and for the further gracing of 
her, to be deckt with many most precious jewels of inestimable 
valour. Whereunto the poore soule gladly obeyed, little think- 
ing that it was her funerall apparell. Now in the nieane while, 
Mustapha (altogither ignorant of the Sultans mind) had as he 
was commanded, caused all the nobilitie, and commanders of 
the men of warre, to be assembled into the great hall : euerie 
man much marueiling, what should be the emperors meaning 
therein, who had not of long so publikely shewed himselfe. 
But being thus togither assembled, arid euerie man according 
as their minds gaue them, talking diuersly of the matter: 
behold, the Sultan entred into the pallace leading the faire 
Greeke by the hand ; who beside her incomparable beautie and 
other the greatest graces of nature, adorned also with all that 
curiositie could deuise, seemed not now to the beholders a mortal 
wight, but some of the stately goddesses, whom the Poets in 
their extacies describe. Thus comming togither into the midst 
of the hall, and due reuerence vnto them done by al them there- 
present ; he stood still with the faire lady in his left hand, and 
so furiously looking round about him, said vnto them : I under- 
stand of your great discontentment, and that you all murmur and 
grudge, for that I, ouercome with mine affection towards this so 
faire a paragon, cannot withdraw my selfe from her presence : But 
I would fame know which of you there is so temperat, that if he had 
in his possession a thing so rare and precious, so louely and so faire, 
would not be thrice aduised before he would forgo the same ? Say 
what you thinke : in the word of a Prince I giue you free libertie so 
to doe. But they all rapt with an incredible admiration to see 
so faire a thing, the like whereof they had neuer Before beheld, 
said all with one consent, That he had with greater reason so 
passed the time with her, than any man had to find fault there- 
with. Whereunto the barbarous prince answered: Well, but 
now I will make you to vnderstand how far you haue been deceiued 


in me, and tliat there is no earthly thing that can so much blind my 
scnces, or bereaue me of reason as not to see and vnderstand what 
beseemeth my high place and calling : yea I would you should all 
Icnoiv, that the honor and conquests of the Othoman kings my noble 
progenitors, is so fixed in my brest, with such a desire in my selfe to 
exceed the same, as that nothing but death is able to put it out of my 
remembrance. And hauing so said, presently with one of his 
hands catching the faire Greeke by the haire of the head, and 
drawing his falchion with the other, at one blow strucke off her 
head, to the great terror of them all. And hauing so done, 
said vnto them : Now by this iudge whether your cmperour is able to 
bridle Jtis affections or not. Arid within a while after, meaning 
to discharge the rest of his choller, caused great preparation to 
be made for the conquest of PELOPONESVS, and the besieging of 


Such is the story which Johnson transformed in his Irene. 
This simple tale of lust and cruelty became in his hands a 
drama of the struggle between virtue and weakness. Irene 
is represented not as a helpless victim of the Sultan's passion, 
but as the mistress of her fate. Will she sacrifice her creed 
to attain security and power ? She has freedom to decide. 

Wilt thou descend, fair Daughter of Perfection, 
To hear my Vows, and give Mankind a Queen? 

To State and Pow'r I court thee, not to Euin : 
Smile on my Wishes, and command the Globe, 

so the Sultan woos her. In order that this freedom may 
be emphasized, she is placed in contrast to Aspasia, a new 
character for whom there is no warrant in the original story. 
Aspasia is the voice of clear and unflinching virtue ; and she 
is rewarded with her escape from slavery in company with 
the lover of her choice. But Irene yields, and pays the 
penalty. She hesitates, complies, and half repents, then is 
betrayed and ordered to die. Her death is exhibited by 
Johnson as the punishment of her weakness, whereas in 
Knolles's story it is but the fortuitous conclusion of helpless , 
misfortune. Even in his first serious work the great moralist, 

1 Historic of the Turkcs, first edition, 1603, p. 353. 


as he was soon to be called, converted a record of senseless 
cruelty into a study of temptation. 

When some twenty to thirty years later Johnson came to 
edit Twelfth-Night he criticized the marriage of Olivia as 
wanting credibility and as failing * to produce the proper 
instruction required in the drama, as it exhibits no just 
picture of life '. It was a juster picture of life that Irene 
should be strangled at the Sultan's orders for her supposed 
treachery than decapitated by him without warning and 
without reason in the presence of his admiring court; and 
he drew it so that there should be no mistake about ' the 
proper instruction required in the drama'. In his criticism 
of Ai< Yon Like It he said that k by hastening to the end of 
his work Shakespeare suppressed the dialogue between the 
usurper and the hermit, and lost an opportunity of exhibiting 
a moral lesson in which he might have found matter worthy 
of his highest powers '. Johnson never hastened in his Irene, 
and he never refused the chance of a moral lesson. Much of 
the interest of his early drama lies in the illustrations which 
it provides of his later critical precepts or observations, for 
he held the same opinions throughout all his fifty years as an 
author ; they show change only in the confidence with which 
they are expressed. k I do not see that The Bard promotes 
any truth, moral or political ' so he said in his Life of Gray ; 
and if we want to know what he meant we cannot do better 
than turn to his Irene 

Of the political truths it cannot be said again to quote 
the Life of Gray that we have never seen them in any other 
place ; some of them were expressed elsewhere by Johnson 
himself, and better. The downfall of a nation is due not so 
much to the strength of the conqueror as to weakness and 
vice at home, 

A feeble Government, eluded Laws, 

A factious Populace, luxurious Nobles, 

And all the Maladies of sinking States. 

Empires are weakened by the lust of conquest and possession : 

Extended Empire, like expanded Gold, 
Exchanges solid Strength for feeble Splendor. 


In the perfect state all classes work together for the good of 
the whole : 

If there be any Land, as Fame reports, 

Where common Laws restrain the Prince and Subject, 

A happy Land, where circulating Pow'r 

Flows through each Member of th'embodied State, 

Sure, not unconscious of the mighty Blessing, 

Her grateful Sons shine bright with ev'ry Virtue ; 

Untainted with the Lust of Innovation, 

Sure all unite to hold her League of Eule 

Unbroken as the sacred Chain of Nature, 

That links the jarring Elements in Peace. 

This is a good statement of Johnson's Tory creed, and none 
the worse for the implied satire on the Whigs. It is the only 
passage in Irene in which the political allusion is specific ; 
and it is introduced cautiously, with the responsibility for the 
anachronism thrown on the broad shoulders of Fame, for it 
was not the English constitution in the days of the Wars of 
the Roses that Johnson had in his mind to praise. 

The moral truths abound. In The Beauties of the English 
Drama, a collection of ' the most celebrated Passages, Solilo- 
ques, Sirnilies, Descriptions ' which was published in 1777, no 
fewer than thirty-two passages are given from Irene amount- 
ing in all to close on three hundred lines. Even of the best 
we have to say that if they lend themselves to quotation, 
they do not dwell on the memory. Johnson moves more 
easily in the rhymed couplet than in blank verse, and is still 
more forcible in prose. 

The characters are said to be Turks and Greeks, but if they 
were called by other names the play would lose nothing. 
They are members, or attendants, of the great family of 
tragic heroes of Drury Lane, and what they say has no local 
or racial limits in its application. But the play was suggested 
by a story that belongs to the year 1456, 1 and there is there- 
fore one allusion to the Renaissance : 

1 According to Knolles's narrative, Irene was captured at the siege of 
Constantinople in 1453 and murdered just before the siege of Belgrade 
in 1456. 'This amorous passion indured the space of three continuall 
yeres' (Painter, Palace of Pleasure). 


The mighty Tuscan courts the banish 'd Arts 
To kind Ijalia's hospitable Shades ; 
There shall soft Pleasure wing th'excursive Soul, 
And Peace propitious smile on fond Desire ; 
There shall despotick Eloquence resume 
Her ancient Empire o'er the yielding Heart ; 
There Poetry shall tune her sacred Voice, 
And wake from Ignorance the Western World. 

This is the one clear indication of the time of the play, and 
it may easily be missed. It was sufficient that Irene should 
conform to these great postulates of the regular drama that 
human nature is everywhere much the same, and that what 
may happen at one time may well happen at another. A story 
laid in Constantinople in the middle of the fifteenth century 
could be made rich in moral lessons for a London audience of 
the eighteenth. 

Johnson was not the first to make a drama out of Knolles's 
story. His is the fourth extant play on Irene in English. 
The other three have long been forgotten, and at least one 
of them is now not easily found. Here therefore are their 
titles in full : 

I. The Tragedy of The unhappy Fair Irene. By Gilbert Swin- 
hoe, Esq; London : Printed by J. Streater, for J. Place, at 
Furnifals Inn Gate, in Holborn, M.DC.LVIII. 

II. Irena, A Tragedy. ! Licensed, -\aaA ' Roger L'Estrange. ! 

London, Printed by Robert White for Octavian Pulleyn 
Junior, at the sign of the Bible in St Pauls Churchyard near 
the little North-door. 1664. 

III. Irene ; Or, The Fair Greek, A Tragedy : As it is Acted at 
the Theatre Royal in Drury-Lane, By Her Majesty's Sworn 
Servants. London : Printed for John Bay ley at the Judge's 
Head in Chancery-Lane, near Fleetstreet. 1708. 

The first of these is the crude work of a young North- 
ymbrian, of whom little is now known beyond what may be 


learned from the commendatory verses. 1 His Irene denies 
the Sultan. She asks 

but one Weeks respite, 
To beg from our great Deity concurrence to your Yoak ; 

and ' a pious Muf ty ' whom the Sultan had brought ' to joyn 

our hands as well as hearts ' decides that 

This her Petition, in honour, cannot be deny'd. 

The people rise to free the Sultan from her enchantments, 

and he yields to their wishes. 

The great content the Emperour took in her, 
Made him lay by the great Affairs of State to court her : 
At which the imperious Souldiers high incens't, 
Forc't his unwilling hand to part her head and body. 

Yet on the morrow of her murder she was to have been his 
' royal bride '. Irene had ' kept aloufe ', and she died thinking 
of a former lover. This youthful exercise in dramatic com- 
position was written at a time when there was little chance 
of its being acted, and we might add could never have 
been acted. Swinhoe was not well served by his printer ; 
but no printer, and no prosodist, could have brought the 
semblance of regularity into the verse if so it may be called 
which is an odd jumble of groups of words divided as lines 
and ranging from four to twenty syllables. 

The anonymous author of Ire no, found in Knolles's story 
the opportunity for nothing less than a genuine Heroic Play. 
The imperious Sultan becomes at his hands a love-sick swain, 
whose only thought is to be ' the more worthy to enjoy the 
title of fair Irena's servant '. Irena is all Virtue, and Mahomet 
is all Love and Honour. When his subjects rebel, his life is 
saved by Irena's chosen lover, to whom he resigns her in an 
ecstasy of gratitude and magnanimity. Whereupon he is 
rewarded with her commendation : 

You've obtained more glory by thus conquering 
Of your self, than 'ere you did by triumphing 
O're your enemies. 

1 Cf. The History of North Durham, by James Raine, 1852, p. 184, and 
A History of Northumberland, vol. i, by Edward Bateson, 1893, p. 212, 
and vol. v, by John Crawford Hodgson, 1899, p. 458 note. 


To protect himself from his subjects he has to appear to 
kill Irena, but lie kills a slave in her place. Another woman 
character is introduced with the purpose of adding splendour 
to Irena's virtue, and emphasizing her nice observance of 
' a Punctilio of Love and Constancy ' ; and all ends happily 
with a double marriage. The play is mainly in prose printed 
as verse, but the monologues and the passages of argument 
and repartee are occasionally in the rhymed couplet which 
was then becoming the recognized metre of this form of 
drama. It appears not to have been acted. 

Such violent liberties were not taken by Charles Goring in 
his Irene, or the Fair Greek. Here Irene laments her fate 
from first to last. She has not yielded in her heart to the 
Sultan, but her coldness and disdain keep alive his passion, 
and when he kills her to allay the dissatisfaction of his sub- 
jects, he tells her to consider her murder ' th' extremest Proof 
of wondrous Love '. The additional woman character is the 
Queen Mother, whose jealousy has stirred up the opposition 
that led to Irene's death. The play in normal blank verse 
with occasional passages in rhyme was produced at Drury 
Lane on 9 February 1708, and ran for three nights. It was 
successful enough to be twice quoted in Thesauri^ Dra- 
mat'icus' 1 (1724), the first English anthology 'confined to the 
tragic muse '. 

The interest of these plays lies mainly, and to the reader 
of Johnson perhaps wholly, in the treatment of the central 
figure. There is no question of borrowing. None of them 
owes anything to another, nor did they provide anything to 
their greater successor. The two earlier plays Johnson may 
be assumed not to have known ; if he happened to know 
Goring's, he certainly took nothing from it. Here are four 
independent renderings of Kiiolles's story, and four distinct 
presentations of the character of Irene. A comparison serves 
to bring out in strong relief the characteristic moral quality 
of Johnson's work. 

But the story of Irene was well known before Knolles 

1 Expanded into The Beauties of the English Stage (1737), and The 
Beauties of the English Drama (1777). 


wrote his history. There was a fifth play, the lost Elizabethan 
play by George Peele, described in the Merrie conceited Jests 
as ' the famous play of the Turkish Mahamet and Hyrin 
the fair Greek '. Hyrin, or Hiren a familiar term to the 
Elizabethans, and long a puzzle to the annotators of Shake- 
speare is none other than Irene. 

It was Bandello who first told the story in print. He says 
he heard it from Francesco Appiano, a doctor and learned 
philosopher, the great-grandson of Francesco Appiano who 
was doctor to Francesco Sforza II, Duke of Milan, and a 
contemporary of Mahomet II. It may have little or no 
foundation in fact ; it may well be only a revival of the 
old story of Alexander, adapted to a century that was much 
occupied with the amorousness and the cruelty of the Turk. 
What alone concerns us here is that Bandello made it the 
subject of his tenth novella, entitled ' Maometto impera/dor 
de' turchi crudelmciito ammazza una sua donna ', and first 
published in 1554. The story soon spread throughout Europe. 
A French version was given in 1559 in Hibtoires TracjLques 
Extralctes des CEuvres Italieniwsde Baudel, mixes en uoslre 
langue Franqoise, pur Pierre Boaistumi surnomvie Launay, 
tbatif de Bretaicjne, and was reprinted in 1564 in Belleforest's 
continuation and enlargement of Boaistuau's collection. It 
appeared in English in 1566 as the fortieth novel in Painter's 
Palace of Pleasure. Then it was swept up in the widespread 
net of the Latin historians of Turkey. Martinus Crusiusgave 
it in his Turcoyrdeciw Libri Odo (Basle, 1584, pp. 101-2), 
translating it from the French. 1 Joachim us Camerarius, in 
his De Rebus Turcicis (Frankfurt, 1598, p. 60), took it directly 
from the Italian. 2 In the Latin writers Knolles had authority 
to include it in his majestic history. But he was jiot content 
to work on the somewhat condensed versions which they 
provided. He had recourse to Painter's P<dace of Pleasure, 

1 ' Excerpsi ex Gallica conuersione partis operum Italicorum Bandeli ' 
(Crusius, 1584, p. 101). 

2 * Non potui facere quin adiicerem id quod in Italicis narrationibus 
& de hoc Mahometha traditum reperissem ' (Caraerarius, 1598, p. 60). 


and produced a skilful and even masterly rehandling of what 
he read in that 'Collection of stories. 

That the lost Elizabethan play was founded on the novel 
in The Palace of Pleasure is not a rash assumption. Bandello's 
' Irenea ' had become ' Hyren^e ' in the French of Boaistuau, 
and ' Hyrenee ' or ' Hirenee ' in the English of Painter ; and 
when Peele brought her on the English stage she was ' Hyrin ' 
or ' Hiren '. From the reference to the play in the Merrle 
Jests j and from the vogue which the word suddenly acquired, 
we can deduce something of the character of her part. She 
must have differed widely from Johnson's Irene, else her 
name would not have supplied an already ample vocabulary 
with a new term conveniently like ' syren '. 

Johnson missed an opportunity when he edited Shake- 
speare. He did not suspect the relationship of Pistol's Hiren 
to the heroine of his own tragedy. 

and Performance 

Irene was produced under the name Mahomet <uul Irene at 
Drury Lane Theatre on Monday, 6 February 1749, and had 
a run of nine nights, the last performance taking place on 
Monday, 20 February. It was acted on the intervening 
Tuesdays (7, 14), Thursdays (9, 16), Saturdays (11, 18), and 
Monday (13), the theatre being closed on the Wednesdays 
and Fridays. Johnson's three benefit nights were the 9th, 
14th, and 20th. None of the theatre bills is known to have 
been preserved, but in their place we have full announce- 
ments in The General Advertiser. From it we also learn that 
Irene was published on Thursday, 16 February. 

When Arthur Murphy wrote his four articles on Hawkins's 
edition of Johnson's Works in The Monthly Review in 1787, 
he stated in one of them that Irene was acted 'in all thirteen 
nights ', as its run was uninterrupted from Monday the 6th to 
Monday the 20th. This statement and much more in these 
articles he repeated in his Essay on the Life and Genius of 
Johnson in 1792. 1 He forgot about Lent. In the eighteenth 

1 Alexander Chalmers accuses Murphy of taking the greater part of 
his Ebsay from the Monthly Reviewer without acknowledgement. But 


century the London theatres were closed in Lent on Wednes- 
days and Fridays, and in 1749 Ash Wednesday fell on 
8 February. 

Though not given to the public till 1749, Irene was the 
earliest of Johnson's more important works. He was engaged 
on it while running his school at Edial, near Lichfield, and 
had written * a great part ' before he set out in March 1737 
to seek his fortune in London. According fco Boswell he had 
written only three acts before his short stay at Greenwich, 
and while there * used to compose, walking in the Park ', but 
he did not finish it till his return to Lichfield in the course of 
the summer to settle his affairs. There is proof, however, that 
the conclusion had been planned and partly written while he 
was still at Edial. The manuscript of his first draft now in 
the British Museum contains in somewhat haphazard order 
matter that was ultimately worked up into each of the five 
acts, or incorporated in them without change. All that can 
be assigned to the spring and summer of 1737 is the com- 
pletion and revision of the play. 

This manuscript is of particular interest as it is the only 
first draft of any of Johnson's major works ^ ; and it shows 
the effort that Irene had cost him. As far as we know 
he never took such pains again. The subject-matter of 
each scene is written out in detail ; the characters are 
described some are named who were afterwards omitted; 
there are page references to authorities. Johnson had read 

the Monthly Reviewer was Murphy himself. He returned to these articles 
after the appearance of Boswell's Life, to work them up into ' a short, 
yet full, a faithful, yet temperate, history of Dr. Johnson '. 

It is only fair to Murphy to add that if he says * thirteen nights ' in 
The Monthly Review for August 1787, p. K>5, he had said 'nine nights ' 
in the April number, p. 290, and reverted to * nine nights ' in his Life of 
Garrick, 1801, i, p. 163. The error would be negligible were it not that x 
it has recently cropped up again. In calculations of * runs * in the 
eighteenth century the time of the year must be taken into consideration. 

1 The original draft and the second draft of The Plan of a Dictionary 
of the English Language, 1747, are both in the possession of Mr. R. B. 
Adam, of Buffalo, N. Y. (see the Catalogue of the Johmonian Collection of 
R. B. Adam, 1921) ; but the Plan is not a major work. 


widely in Knolles's llislorie, and had at leant consulted George 
Sandys's Relation of a Journey . . . Contain ing a description 
of the Turkish Empire, 1615, and Herbelot's Bibliotheque 
Orientate, 1697. 

Then came the trouble of getting the play brought upon 
the stage. Peter Garrick, the actor's elder brother, told 
Boswell what he recollected in 1776, and Boswell jotted 
down this in his Note Book : 

Peter Garrick told me, that M r Johnson went first to London 
to see what could he made of his Tragedy of Irene that he 
remembers his borrowing the Turkish history (I think Peter 
said of him) in order to take the story of his Play out of it. 
That he & M r Johnson went to the Fountain tavern by them- 
selves, & M r Johnson read it to him This M 1 Peter Garrick 
told me at Lichfield Sunday 24 March 1776. . , . He said he 
spoke to Fleetwood the Manager at Goodman's Fields to receive 
Irene. But Fleetwood would not read it ; probably as it was 
not recommended by some great Patron. 1 

Both the Garricks used what influence they had with 
Charles Fleetwood, the manager of Drury Lane Theatre, and 
for some time they seemed likely to be successful. In a letter 
to his wife on 31 January 1740, Johnson reported that 

David wrote to me this day on the affair of Irene, who is at 

last become a kind of Favourite among the Players. Mr. Flete- 

wood promises to give a promise in writing that it shall be the 

first next season, if it cannot be introduced now, and Chetwood 

the Prompter is desirous of bargaining for the copy, and offers 

fifty Guineas for the right of printing after it shall be played. 

I hope it will at length reward me for my perplexities. 2 

It was only the promise of a promise, and Fleetwood was 

an adept in the art of evasion. Next year we find Johnson 

so far discouraged by the actors as to turn to the booksellers. 

Edward Cave, always ready to assist his mainstay on The 

Gentleman's Magazine, wrote thus to Thomas Birch on 

9 September 1741: 

1 BosweWsNote Book 1776-1777 . . . Now first published from the unique 
original in the collection of R. B. Adam (ed. R. W. C.). The Oxford 
Miscellany, 1925, p. 11. 

Letters, ed. G. B. Hill, i, pp. 4, 5, 



I have put Mr Johnson's Play into Mr Gray's Hands, in order 
to sell it to him, if he is inclined to huy it, but I doubt whether 
he will or not. He would dispose of Copy and whatever 
Advantage may be made by acting it. Would . your Society, or 
any Gentleman or Body of men, that you know, take such a 
Bargain? Both he and I are very unfit to deal with the Theatrical 
Persons. Fletewood was to have acted it last Season, but 
Johnson's diffidence or 1 prevented it. 

Johnson was evidently abandoning hope of ever seeing the 
play on the stage, and was resigned to get what money he 
could for it by publication. But John Gray, the bookseller 
who brought out Lillo's pieces, would riot buy it. A further 
stage in despondency is reached when Johnson is content to 
lend the manuscript to his friends. ' Keep Irene close, you 
may send it back at your leisure ' is what he wrote to John 
Taylor, rector of Market Bos worth, on 10 June 1742. 2 

The turn in the fortunes of the play came when David 
Garrick, his old pupil and friend, assumed the managership 
of Drury Lane. Garrick had always been anxious to see 
Irene given a chance, and now that he was under a special 
debt for the great Prologue with which his managership had 
been inaugurated, he decided to make it one of the features 
of the next season. He chose a very strong cast, including 
Barry, Mrs. Pritchard, Mrs. Gibber, as well as himself ; and he 
provided the further attraction of new dresses and stage- 
decorations. ' Never ', says Hawkins, ' was there such a dis- 
play of eastern magnificence as this spectacle exhibited/ 3 
* The dresses ', says Davies, * were rich and magnificent, and 
the scenes splendid and gay, such as were well adapted to 
the inside of a Turkish seraglio; the view of the gardens 
belonging to it was in the taste of eastern elegance/ 4 The 
main difficulty was to induce Johnson to consent to altera- 
tions which Garrick knew by experience to be necessary. He 

1 British Museum, Birch MSS. 4302, f. 109; quoted with slight in- 
accuracies, by Boswell, i, p. 153. There is a purposed blank in the manu- 
script after * diffidence or ' not an illegible word, nor an obliteration, 
nor a dash, nor a tear. 

2 Letters, i, p. 11. 8 Life, 1787, p. 199. 
4 Memoirs of Garrick, 1780, i, p. 120. 


told Boswell long afterwards that Johnson not only had not 
the faculty of producing the impressions of tragedy, but that 
he had not the sensibility to perceive them. 1 ' When Johnson 
writes tragedy ', lie said to Murphy, ' declamation roars, and 
passion sleeps; when Shakespeare wrote, he dipped his pen 
in his own heart.' 2 Garrick knew that Irene would succeed 
only by the efforts of the players ; and Johnson on his part 
feared that their methods of enlivening the action would 
detract from the seriousness of his purpose, and obscure the 
worth of his studied lines. ' Sir/ he said indignantly, ' the 
fellow wants me to make Mahomet run mad, that he may 
have an opportunity of tossing his hands and kicking his 
heels.' 3 We may believe that he was strengthened in his 
indignation by the recollection of what he had recently 
written about Savage's experience with Coliey Gibber 
' having little interest or reputation, he was obliged to sub- 
mit himself wholly to the players, and admit, with whatever 
reluctance, the emendations of Mr. Gibber, which he always 
considered as the disgrace of his performance '. 4 But Garrick 
insisted, and Johnson had to yield. What these alterations 
were, there is nothing now to show. The manuscript affords 
no clue, as it is only a fiist draft; nor does the book. Most 
probably the play was printed exactly as it had been written. 
The one alteration by Garrick of which there is record affects 
only the action, and it had to be abandoned. This was the 
strangling of Irene by a bow-string on the stage. The author 
of a tragedy in which the scene does not change and all is 
supposed to happen within one day r ' could be trusted not to 
kill his heroine before the eyes of the audience, and must 
have consented with no goodwill to so gross a violation of 
the methods of the regular drama. As events proved, Garrick 
had gone too far in his desire for stirring action. The 

1 Life, ed. G. B. Hill, i, p. 198. a Essay, 1792, p. 53. 

3 Life, i, p. 196. 

4 Life of Mr. Richard Savage, 1744, p. 23 ; The Lives of the Poets, ed. 
G. B. Hill, ii. 339. 

6 According to the manuscript the Scene is ' a Garden near the Walls 
of Constantinople ', and the Time is ' Ten days after the taking of it ' 


strangling of Irene was at once greeted with cries of ' Murder, 
Murder ', though John Bull, as Charles Burney put it, 1 will 
allow a dramatic poet to stab or slay by hundreds, and her 
death had to take place as Johnson had designed. From the 
evidence of a Diary once in the possession of Mrs. Garrick, 
the change was made after the second night : 

Feb. 6, 1719. Irene. Written by Mr. Johnson went off 
very well for 4 Acts, the 5th HissM generally. 
Feb. 7. Ditto. 5th Act hiss'd again. 2 

Burney and Davies, however, both say that the offence was 
removed after the first night. Garrick must have been 
responsible also for the stage-name Mahomet and Irene.' 1 
The play was received without enthusiasm. The most 
adverse account is given by Hawkins who, always lukewarm, 
says that it met with cold applause. Burney, a man of 
warmer temperament, who was present at the first per- 
formance and several of the others, remembered that it was 
much applauded the first night and that there was not the 
least opposition after the death-scene had been removed. 
But a letter from Aaron Hill to Mallet, written while the 
play was in the middle of its run, shows that the chief 
attraction to him and we may presume to many others 
lay in the dresses arid the acting : 

' I was in town ', he wrote on 15 February, * at the Anamolous 
(sic) Mr. Johnson's benefit, and found the Play his proper repre- 
sentative, strong sense, ungrac'd by sweetness, or decorum : 
Mr. Garrick made the most of a detach 'd, and almost independent 
character. He was elegantly dress'd, and charm'd me infinitely, 
by an unexampled silent force of painted action ; and by a 
peculiar touchingness, in cadency of voice, from exclamation, 
sinking into pensive lownesses, that both surpriz'd. and inter- 

1 In a note printed in the third edition of Boswell's Life. 

2 Sold at Puttick and Simpson's on 11 July 1900, i Catalogue of Auto- 
graph Letters and Documents ', p. 16. 

3 Clearly in 1749 Mahomet and Irene was expected to draw larger 
audiences than plain Irene would. But was the theatre manager playing 
to the gulls, and thinking not merely of the Great Turk but also of his 
popular little brother of the same name who is mentioned in the Drury 
Lane Prologue ? 

2338-14 J> 


ested ! Mrs. Cibber, too, was beautifully dressed, and did the 
utmost justice to her part. But I was sorry to see Mahomet 
(in Mr. B-Y) lose the influence of an attractive figure &,nd degrade 
the awful ness of an imperious Sultan, the impressive menace of 
a martial conqueror^ and the beseeching tendernesses of an amorous 
sollicitor, by an unpointed restlessness of leaping levity, that 
neither carried weight to suit his dignity, nor struck out purpose, 
to express his passions. 1 

Garrick had evidently no difficulty in carrying the per- 
formance to the sixth night. In order to carry it to the 
ninth, BO that Johnson might have three third-night benefits, 
he had recourse to expedients which Johnson cannot have 
liked. On the seventh night this grave tragedy was sup- 
plemented with lighter entertainment. It was not uncommon 
at this time to add a farce to a serious play, and it is to the 
credit of Irene to have survived to the sixth night without 
such aid ; it was not uncommon also to add dancing ; but on 
the seventh night Garrick added both a farce and dancing 
and Scotch dancing. According to the announcement in The 
General Advertiser the play was presented 

With Entertainments of Dancing, particularly 

The Scotch Dance by Mr COOKE, Mad. ANNE AURETTI, &c. 

To which (by Desire) will be added a Farce, call'd 


Or, The Sham-Doctor. 

On the eighth night the Scotch Dance 2 was repeated, with 
Garrick's farce The Lying Valet ; on the ninth there were 
'the Savoyard Dance by Mr. Matthews, Mr. Addison, &c. ', 

1 Works of Aaron Hill, 1753, ii, pp. 355-6. 

2 Dances were a recognised means of swelling 1 the audience on a 
benefit night, and before Garrick's time were added at the author's risk. 
According to The Prompter, no. cxv, 16 December 1735, the author some- 
times lost heavily : ' Third Nights are so high, against an Author, that 
unless he can make very considerable Interest, he may be in Danger of 
losing, instead of gaining. The Kxpence of JJanmy extraordinary, and 
pantomimical Machinery, swell the Account to such a Height, that an 
Author now, who accepts the Conditions of his Benefit, only GAMES. 
'Tis a Theatrical Pharoah, he may gain three times as much as he stakes; 
or he may lose his Stake, as well as his Time and LaJwur. 9 We need not 
assume that Johnson ran any risk with the Scotch dancing-. 


and Fielding's farce The Virgin Unmasked. Short as this 
run of nine nights may now appear, it compares not un- 
favourably with other runs about the same time. The 
twenty nights of Cato in April and May 1713 still remained 
the record for a tragedy. Thomson's Tancred and Siyis- 
munda (1745) had nine nights, and his Goriolanus, produced 
immediately before Irene, had ten, and Aaron Hill's Merope, 
produced immediately after it, had nine with two additional 
performances (one k by particular desire ', the other by royal 
command) at intervals of a week ; Moore's Gamester (1753) 
had ten with an eleventh a week later, Young's Brothers 
(1753) had nine, and Glover's Boadtcea (1753) had ten. 1 The 
mere number of performances is thus in itself no proof that 
Irene had riot succeeded on the stage. A more important 
indication is that neither Garrick nor any other actor 
thought of reviving it during Johnson's lifetime. Nor, it 
would appear, has it ever been acted since, though when it 
was included in Bell's British Theatre it was adorned with 
a frontispiece representing Miss Wall is as Aspasia a part 
which she is not known to have played. 

Financially, Johnson had no reason to consider Irene a 
failure. The author of an original play produced at Drury 
Lane during Garrick's management was given the receipts 
of a benetit night with a nominal deduction of sixty guineas 
for the expenses of the house, though the expenses usually 
came to about ninety.^ From a manuscript note by Isaac 
Reed printed by M alone y we learn that after the theatre had 
reserved its hundred and eighty guineas there remained for 
Johnson as his profit on the three nights 195 1 7s. In ad- 

1 Such numbers here as differ from those given in Genest's English 
Stage have been derived from the advertisements in The General 
Advertiser &nd The PuUlc Advertiser. ' 

- See Garrick's letter to Smollett of 26 November 1757, printed in 
Murphy's Life of Garrick, 1801, ii, pp. 299-300. 

3 Boswell's Life of Johnson, 6th edition, 1811, i, p. 176. The note was 
supplied to Malone, the editor of this edition, by Alexander Chalmers. 
The receipts for the three benefit nights were ,177 Is. 6d., 106 4s. Od, 
and 101 11s. 6d., making 384 17s. Od. in all, from which 189 0. Orf. 
had to be deducted. 

D 2 


dition he received from Dodsley XI 00 for the copyright. 
After twelve yars of disappointment Irene thus at last 
brought Johnson altogether about 300. 

Criticisms of Irene immediately appeared in periodicals 
and pamphlets. A long and laudatory letter which occupies 
more than a column of The General Advertiser of 18 February 
1749, speaks of it as 'the best Tragedy, which this Age has 
produced, for Sublimity of Thought, Harmony of Numbers, 
Strength of Expression, a scrupulous Observation of Dramatic 
Kules, the sudden Turn of Events, the tender and generous 
Distress, the unexpected Catastrophe, and the extensive and 
important Moral '. The tone of the whole letter and such a 
statement as l all who admire Irene pay a Compliment to their 
own Judgment ' suggest that it was written with more than 
a critical purpose. Garrick probably knew something about 
what was in effect a skilful advertisement, issued at a time 
when he was taking other means to ensure a third benefit 
night. A more impartial but equally friendly account is the 
' Plan and Specimens of Irene ' which was published in The 
Gentlemen's Magazine for February when the play had been 
withdrawn. It gives an elaborate analysis of the plot, and 
after saying that ' to instance every moral which is inculcated 
in this performance would be to transcribe the whole', cites 
about a hundred and fifty lines with high praise. The play is 
censured in respect of the design and the characters, but com- 
mended for the justice of the observations and the propriety 
of the sentiments, in An Essay on Tragedy, with a Critical 
Examen of Mahomet and Irene, an ineffective and now very 
rare pamphlet published without the author's name by Ralph 
Griffiths on 8 March. Unfortunately no copy appears to be 
now known of A Criticism on Mahomet and Irene. In 
a Letter to the Author, which, according to announcements in 
The General Advertiser, was ( printed and sold by W. Reeve, 
in Fleet-Street ; arid A. Dodd, opposite St. Clement's Church, 
in the Strand ', and was published as early as 21 February. 

The success of Irene fell far below Johnson's hopes, but he 
took his disappointment, in his well-known words, ' like the 
Monument'. He continued to think well of what cost him more 


labour and anxiety than any other work of the same size, and 
at least five quotations in the Dictionary (s. v. from, important, 
imposture, intimidate, stagnant) testify to his parental fond- 
ness. Nor did he come to agree with the verdict of the 
public till late in life, when, on hearing part of it read out, 
he admitted that he { thought it had been better '. l His final 
judgement is clearly indicated in The Lives of the Poets. When 
he said in the Life of Prior that 'tetliousness is the most fatal 
of all faults' and 'that which an author is least able to dis- 
cover', and when in his Life of Addison he drew a distinction 
between a poem in dialogue and a drama, and added that the 
success of Cato had ' introduced or confirmed among us the 
use of dialogue too declamatory, of unaftecting elegance, and 
chill philosophy ', we cannot but think that he remembered 
his own Irene. 

While Irene was still unacted, Johnson appears to have 
thought of writing another tragedy. c I propose ', he said, in 
a letter of 10 June 1742, ' to get Charles of Sweden ready for 
this winter, and shall therefore, as I imagine, be much en- 
gaged for some months with the Dramatic Writers.' 2 Nothing 
more is heard of this proposal. Johnson's * Charles XII ' 
took nobler form in one of the great passages of The Vanity 
of Human Wishes. 


1 Life, ed. G. B. Hill, iv, p. 5. 2 Letters, i, p. 11. 


THE Brontes are not merely historical people who produced 
literature, they are themselves the heroines of a story 
written partly by Mrs. Gaskell and partly by Charlotte and 
enacted by the three sisters against a background of savage 
moorland country or narrow Belgian life and always, as it 
seems, beneath stormy or weeping skies. Their personalities 
have the completeness, the consistency, the perfect congruity 
alike with the background against which they stand, and with 
the lives they led, that we expect in great works of art. 
They have the immortality of the creations of the great 
masters who ' living not ' ' can ne'er be dead '. Because of 
this one shrinks from disturbing that enchanted world in 
which, like the sleepers in Shelley's Witch of Atlas, they rest, 
' age after age, mute, breathing, beating, warm, and undccay- 
ing '. And indeed of the sisters as heroines I can say nothing 
that has not already been said far better. 

I am going to attempt the perhaps less otiose but more 
ungracious task of analysing Charlotte Bronte's artistic 
processes and estimating in cold abstraction from her perso- 
nality the value of her writing, her place in the history of the 
evolution of the novel. 

To Emily and Anne I shall often refer in so far as they 
throw light on their elder sister's development, but one 
may suggest in passing that Emily was perhaps a greater 
literary genius. Her characters and story are not mere 
faintly disguised copies of the people she has met or of what 
has happened to herself, and this power of invention as 
Charlotte recognized in criticizing the works of others this 
power of making one's self the ' instrument ' of life and telling 
a tale not verified in one's own person, is proof of that plurality 
of latent experience which is perhaps the best description of 

Now the foundation of most of Charlotte's work is simply 
her own life and character, modified in the case of Jane Eyre 


by the influence of certain literary models. She learned her 
art in Jane Eyre and that book was used itself as a sort of 
standard and pattern in its two successors. It is with this 
process I propose to deal. 

The use of the literary model is almost certainly due to 
M. Heger's method of teaching the two sisters. Mrs. Gaskell 
writes, ' He proposed to read to them some of the master- 
pieces of the most celebrated French authors . . . and after 
having thus impressed the complete effect of the whole, to 
analyse the parts with them, pointing out in what such and 
such author excelled, and where were the blemishes '. Then 
a similar theme was given out and an exercise written in 
imitation of the model. For example, one day he read to 
them Victor Hugo's Portrait of Mirabeau and then dismissed 
them to choose the subject of a similar kind of portrait. 
Charlotte BronUi's imitation of this was a portrait of Peter 
the Hermit. When M. Heger had explained his plan of 
instruction to the Brontes, he asked for their comments. 
1 Emily spoke first ; and said, that she saw 110 good to be 
derived from it ; and that by adopting it they should lose 
all originality of thought and expression/ Charlotte also 
doubted, but was willing to try, and it is clear that the plan 
was adhered to, in spite of Emily's objections. It seems 
probable that Charlotte was convinced of its value : she 
appears to have, as it were, got herself going in the compo- 
sition of Jane Eyre in something this way. Remember 
Lucy Snowe's description of her method. ' When Paul 
dictated the trait on which the essay was to turn ... I had 
no material for its treatment. But I got books, read of the 
facts, laboriously constructed a skeleton out of the dry bones 
of the real, and then clothed them and tried to breathe into 
them life.' 

The earliest written of the novels we now possess was The 
Professor (this qualification is necessary, for Charlotte, like 
her sisters, appears to have written hundreds of stories, 
beginning in her extreme youth). It was not printed till two 
years after her death (1857), but it had gone the round of 
most of the publishing houses ten years before, while its 


creator was engaged on Jane Eyre. No publisher would take 
it, but one criticized it with courtesy and insight, and expressed 
a wish to see a three-volume novel from the same hand. 
The publishers appear to have complained of ' want of varied 
interest ' ; and Charlotte Bronte writes that she has en- 
deavoured to impart a ' more vivid interest ' to Jane Eyre. 
This more vivid interest was given by crossing, as it were, her 
own experience with stories she had heard or read, the chief 
being Richardson's Pamela. 

Jane is a nursery governess and her social position as such 
is nearly indistinguishable from that of Pamela as waiting- 
woman to Mr. B.'s mother. Both habitually talk of the hero 
as ' my Master ' and are sent for to his presence. There is no 
doubt that part of the success of J<nte Eyre, as of Pamela, 
was due to the romance of the rise of the heroine in social 
position. Mrs. Fairfax corresponds closely to Mrs. Jervis 
the housekeeper who befriends Pamela. The house-party 
with the egregious Miss Ingram has a parallel in the party 
which comes to dine and inspect Pamela, and in Mr. B/s 
sister who objects to the marriage. Rochester plans and nearly 
carries through a sham marriage with Jane, and Mr. B. 
plots a sham marriage. Many of the scenes correspond 
exactly, and it is amazing how many little points are repro- 
duced. For example, in Pamela one of the servants who 
wishes Pamela well and cannot get access to her, disguises 
himself as a gipsy, and, pretending to tell fortunes, brings her 
a letter warning her about the mock-marriage. In Jane 
Eyre Rochester disguises himself as a gipsy and, pretending 
to tell Jane's fortune, hints at the truth of his position. One 
tiny point is significant of the method. In Pamela the gipsy 
wishes to draw Pamela's attention to the fact that she is going 
to hide the letter in the grass, since she dare not give it to her 
then. She does it thus : ' O ! said she, I cannot tell your 
fortune : your hand is so white and fine, I cannot see the 
lines : but said she, and stooping, pulled up a little tuft of 
grass, 1 have a way for that : and so rubbed my hand with 
the mould part of the tuft : Now, said she, I can see the lines/ 


In Jane Eyre Rochester disguised as a gipsy asks for Jane's 
hand, and then says, ' It is too fine ... I can make nothing of 
such a hand as that ; almost without lines ; besides what is 
in a palrn ? Destiny is not written there.' 

There are five important interviews between Jane and 
Rochester, after their relations have become intimate, in 
which the love-story finds expression, These are : Firstly, the 
walk in the garden at dawn after the night in which Mason 
was attacked by his mad sister. They sit in an arbour 
together and he tells her his story, but in obscure language, 
and tries to get her to approve the course he intends to take 
that of ignoring his marriage and uniting himself with her. 
Then there is a scene, in the orchard late at night, in which 
Eochester proposes. Thirdly, there is the long conversation 
the night after the interrupted marriage in which Rochester 
tries to get her to live with him as his mistress. Lastly, we 
have the two interviews at Ferndean. In the first, Jane, after 
her Jong journey, is introduced by the housekeeper and iinds 
her master blind and ill. The final proposal is made when 
they are out walking. 

Now each of these is developed out of similar incidents in 
Pamela. Pamela has interviews with Mr. B. in the garden 
and in an arbour. He consults her as to the desirability of his 
marrying, and on one of these occasions she believes him to 
be aiming at a sham marriage, as Rochester really is in the 
orchard scene. The scene at midnight after the interrupted 
marriage corresponds to the elaborate proposals sent by Mr. B. 
to Pamela, if she will live with him as his mistress. Again, 
Jane's meeting with Rochester at Ferndean is paralleled by 
Pamela's return when she hears that Mr. B. is ill, and by her 
interview with him, introduced by Mrs. Jewkes. Lastly, 
Pamela's marriage is decided on during a long drive she takes 
with .her master, just as Rochester's successful proposal is 
made during a walk. 

It is true that the mad wife was unknown to Richardson. 
His obtuse moral sense saw no difficulty in rewarding Pamela 
with the hand of the man who had tried every possible way 
of ruining her, and whose own selfishness was the only barrier 


to marriage with her. Charlotte Bronte had to find a fairly 
adequate excuse for Rochester. Mrs. Gaskell thinks that 
a local story was the source for this part of the plot. But 
the whole incident is coloured by the practice of Mrs. Radcliffe 
and her school. In The Sicilian Romance the heroine's 
wicked Father, in order to marry a lady with whom he has" 
fallen in love, keeps his wife shut up for years in an under- 
ground apartment. It is this episode which is the mainspring 
of the satire in Northauyer Alley (one remembers that 
Charlotte Bronte did not care for Jane Austen's novels). 
Catherine Morland being excluded, as she thinks, with guilty 
care from the rooms of her host's late wife, makes up her mind 
that the lady still lives a prisoner in the Abbey. The general 
sends his daughter and guest to bed, but announces that he 
must sit up to read pamphlets. * To be kept up for hours by 
stupid pamphlets was not very likely. There must be some 
deeper cause : something was to be done which could be done 
only while the household ylept ; and the probability that 
Mrs. Tilney yet lived shut up for causes unknown, and 
receiving from the pitiless hands of her husband a nightly 
supply of coarse food, was the conclusion which necessarily 

We come upon other traces of Mrs. Radcliffe's methods in 
Villette. The ghostly nun, who turns out to be Genevra, 
Fanshawe's lover, masquerading, is in Mrs. Radcliffe's worst 
manner. Charlotte Bronte uses the nun to give a romantic 
eeriness at various points, of which the most impressive is in 
the explanation between Lucy and Mr. Paul in the Alle'e 
ddf endue. The chapter ends : ' with a sort of angry rush 
close, close past our faces swept swiftly the very nun herself. 
Never had I seen her so clearly. She looked tall of stature, 
and fierce of gesture. As she went the wind rose sobbing ; 
the rain poured wild and cold ; the whole night seemed to 
feel her.' When we find that this apparition is a particularly 
silly man whose masquerading effects nothing, we are outraged. 

Scott in the Lives of the Novelists criticizes severely this 
weakness of the School of Terror, but he himself offended in 
the same way, and, as Charlotte Bronte admired him above all 


other novelists he may have been her model here. There 
seem always to have been, in her at least, and probably in 
Emily also, two divergent tendencies the one towards minute 
and very accurate realism, and the other to what Mrs. Gaskell 
characterizes as * wild, weird writing' 'to the very borders of 
delirium '. She gives an example of this and, apparently 
a little shocked, suggests that it may have some allegorical or 
political reference : 

It is well known that the Genii have declared that unless 
they perform certain arduous duties every year, of a mysterious 
nature, all the worlds in the firmament will be burned up, and 
gathered together in one mighty globe, which will roll in solitary 
grandeur through the vast wilderness of space, inhabited only 
by the high princes of the Genii, till time shall bo succeeded by 
Eternity . . . that by their magic might they can reduce the 
world to a desert, the purest waters to streams of livid poison, 
and the clearest lakes to stagnant waters, the pestilential vapours 
of which shall slay all living creatures, except the blood-thirsty 
beast of the forest, and the ravenous bird of the rock. 

This way of writing is the source of the romantic glamour 
which runs through all Charlotte's works, and leads her, for 
example, in Shirley, to amazing bombastic passages ; but, as 
I hope to show later, it was a necessary part of the full 
expression of her genius. This sort of thing is not traceable 
to Scott, but owes no doubt much to Southey's epics and also 
something to Beckford's Vailiek. One cannot help feeling 
that a better image of the fiery hunger of the Brontes' natures, 
of which they were themselves so acutely conscious, could not 
be found than Beckford's picture of the condemned beings 
who wander for ever through nightmare halls with their 
hands pressed to their flaming hearts. That Vathek ran in 
Charlotte's mind is proved, I think, by her misleading 
appreciation of the character of Heathcliff in Wuthering 
Heights. { Heathcliff", she says, * betrays one solitary human 
feeling, and that is not his love for Catherine ; which is 
a sentiment fierce and inhuman ; a passion such as might boil 
and glow in the bad essence of some evil genius ; a fire that 
might form the tormented centre the ever-suffering soul of 


a magnate of the infernal world : and by its quenchless and 
ceaseless ravage effect the execution of the decree which 
dooms him to carry Hell with him wherever he wanders . . . 
we should say he was child neither of Lascar nor gipsy, but 
a man's shape animated by demon life a Ghoul an Afreet/ 
Now this passage gives the impression of volcanic force in 
the passions of Emily's characters, but it is untrue and unfair 
to Emily's art. However true it may be that Wuthering 
Hciykts grew out of the early fantastic tales imagined by 
Emily, she has explained carefully how Heathcliff came to be 
what he was. It is the result of the strange vicissitudes of 
his childhood, fostered by the forbidding countryside in 
which he grew up. In one of her poems we see her turning 
from the fantastic- -which always kept its hold on Charlotte 
to the stronger source of inspiration in her own nature : 

To-day 1 will seek not the shadowy region ; 

Its uusustaining vastness waxes drear ; 
And visions rising, legion after legion, 

Bring the unreal world too strangely near. 

I'll walk, but riot in old heroic traces, 

And not in paths of high morality, 
And not among the half-distinguished faces, 

The clouded forms of long-past history. 

I'll walk where my own nature would be leading : 

It vexes me to choose another guide : 
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding ; 

Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side. 

What have those lonely mountains worth revealing ? 

More glory and more grief than I can tell : 
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling 

Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell. 

To return to Jane Eyre. Starting from the story of the 
first of the four volumes of Richardson's Pamela, Charlotte 
Bronte's task was to make a three-volume novel of this 
material and to create a sympathetic and really virtuous 
heroine, and a hero who shall attempt an illegal union one 
becomes pedantic in Charlotte Bronte's company and yet 


seem not unworthy of the heroine's devotion. Pamela, whose 
one real gift is beauty, and who is attracted to Mr. B. solely 
by his wealth and position, is a designing minx. As Birrell 
puts it, she ' was always ready to marry anybody's son, only 
she must have the marriage lines to keep in her desk to show 
to her dear parents '. Charlotte Bronte had to make UH 
respect a girl who allowed herself to fall in love with a man 
who had no intention of marrying her, and ultimately gave 
herself to him. 

Now this was attained largely by making the heroine's 
attraction for the hero to be character and intellect not 
beauty. She had told her sisters that they ' were wrong 
even morally wrong to make their heroines beautiful as 
a matter of course '. In a story like Jane Eyre it might have 
been so, because it would have involved weakness sensuality 
in the hero. The task therefore which she set herself was 
to give, by dialogue chiefly, the impression of charm. Jane 
wins Rochester by her courage, truthfulness, resource, trust- 
worthiness, but she keeps him by her wit. On the other 
hand, when the book was first published, Jane's passionate 
desire to be loved was thought to be ' indelicate ', even 4 coarse '. 
It seems probable that the author whose advice on love and 
marriage in her letters is extremely early Victorian must 
have perceived the danger of this beforehand. 

She met it by the account of the unhappy childhood. The 
passionate misery of the orphan not only explains the love- 
hunger but raises in the reader a strong desire to see her come 
into her kingdom it gets in fact the effect of a peripety. 
But the space devoted to the childhood enabled her to give 
a full-length portrait of the heroine, and since for that there 
was no material in Pamela, she was thrown back on her 
second source, her own experience. It is an admitted fact that 
all the scenes at the school are bitter but accurate pictures of 
the institution where four of the Bronte children spent some 
time and which two of them left only to die. Aunt Reed and 
her unpleasant off spring, one judges by the close correspondence 
to pictures in Anne's books, are portraits of households in 
which one or other of the Bronte sisters suffered as governesses. 


It has not, I think, been pointed out so often that the third 
part of the book that is to say, from the flight from Thorn- 
field to the return to the blind Rochester the relations in 
fact with the Rivers family appears to be taken from 
Charlotte's relations with the Nussey family. Henry Nussey, 
a clergyman, proposed to Charlotte. Charlotte's answer, as 
well as what she says on the subject to her dear friend her 
suitor's sister show that his otter, like that of St. John 
Rivers, was scarcely that of a lover. ' He intimates ', says 
Charlotte to his sister, ' that in due time he should want 
a wife to take care of his pupils, and frankly asks me to be 
that wife.' Compare with this Jane's account to Diana of 
her brother's views in seeking her in marriage. 'His sole 
idea in proposing to me is to procure a fitting fellow 
labourer. . . / 'He has again and again explained that it is 
not himself, but his office he wishes to mate. He has told me 
I am formed for labour, not for love.' We see by the com- 
parison the sort of modification made by art. Henry Nussey's 
need was for a good housekeeper, to his own economic advan- 
tage, it might be felt ; there was no moral compulsion to assist 
him, though she speaks of gratitude to his family. St. John 
desired a helper for his cause, a sacrifice to be laid on the altar 
of his stern Deity. 

On the whole Miss Bronte was equally successful in dealing 
with the difficulty of the hero's character. Rochester is a 
sort of Mr. B. crossed with M. Heger. His first marriage 
is represented as having ruined his chances of innocent 
happiness, the faithlessness of Adele's mother completes his 
disillusionment. Further, the introduction of the egregious 
St. John Rivers acts as a foil : we are ready to pardon anything 
to an erring but passionate human being, after the presence 
of the harsh fanatic. 

The structure of Jane Ej/rc, then, appears to be this. We 
start with the central episode of what may be termed 
Rochester's courtship at Tliornfield framed on the model of 
Mr. B.'s courtship of Pamela. The intellect and character of 
Jane her passionate love and yet power of restraint is 
what raises this part above Richardson's novel. Then we find 


that the hungry, unhappy childhood is needed to explain this 
character, and further makes us feel the intensity of her rest 
in love. But both our sense of proportion and the necessity 
of making us respect the dramatis pcrsonae require that this 
period of happiness should work up to a climax and peripety 
(reversal of fortune), and be followed by a new period of agony. 
Pamela falls to pieces because the marriage takes place too 
soon, and what follows afterwards is merely a series of episodes. 
Jane Eyre has the structure of a well-knit drama. The clays 
and nights of physical as well as mental starvation, followed 
by the strange persecution of St. John, from whose grasp Jane 
escapes as by a miracle, forms exactly the preparation we need 
for the final happiness, intense and yet subdued, human and 
yet of the spirit. Jane's character which has held the book 
together finds its consummation : * I hold myself supremely 
blest . . . because I am my husband's life, as fully as he is 
mine, . . . To be together is for us to be at once as free as in 
solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, 1 believe, all day 
long: to talk to each other is only a more animated way of 

In Shirley Charlotte Bronte made an attempt to break 
away from her own inner life, but the extent to which she 
relied upon immediate and particular observation is nowhere 
more obvious. Shirley and Caroline are modelled on her 
sisters Emily and Anno. Her deep love and admiration for 
Emily dead just about six months when the novel appeared 
enabled her to portray a nature essentially unlike her own. 
That inspiration also enabled her to sec her heroine in 
circumstances unlike those of the sad reality wealthy and in 
a position of authority. When, however, it came to the love- 
making her instinct failed her completely. Charlotte Bronte 
apparently could not believe in any acceptable lover, who was 
not at least in nature a schoolmaster. Even Rochester has 
a touch of it. Shirley has been made so real to us that her 
devotion to Louis a stick at best is merely ludicrous. 

It seems to me just possible that Louis was an afterthought ; 
that her first intention was to give Shirley to Robert Moore 
and to let Caroline die of a broken heart. But the shadow 


of the death of Anne which took place in May might well 
alter her purpose. Mrs. Gaskell tells us that the first chapter 
written after Anne's death was the 24th that called The 
Valley of the Shadow in which Caroline goes down to the 
gates of death, but returns. Now Louis makes his first 
appearance in the preceding chapter, and up to that point the 
way has been prepared for the gradual decline of Caroline. 
It would, I think, have been a greater book, if the author 
had hardened her heart and gone on. But to use in a work 
of art the clear impression imprinted by the agony of the 
death of the prototype would naturally repel the bereaved 
sister. Moreover, it might suggest to the world, should the 
identity of the Bells be discovered, that Anne had died of 
unrequited love. The idea would be intolerable. Never- 
theless the book falls to pieces because of this. Miss Sinclair 
remarks on the difficulty of finding your way about in it of 
remembering where a particular scene comes. 

You discern dimly an iron-grey Northern background drawn 
with strokes hard yet blurred. . . . Tiiere is an incessant coming 
and going of people who seem to have lost their way in the 
twilight too. . . . There is a good deal of confused frame-breaking, 
about which you do not care. . . . Presently Louis Moore appears 
and the drama miraculously simplified leaps forward and be- 
comes alive, and moves forward under a strong but unsteady 
light. You can find your way now. 

Now this does give the general impression of the book, and it 
is true that the course of the story becomes clear when Louis 
appears, but it also becomes feeble The Family Herald 
inverted. Louis is a male Jane Eyre, or rather a male 
Pamela, he even has Pamela's passion for ' papers '. He has 
none of Jane's wit and charm. The book was intended to be 
on a wide canvas to give the truth of the hard, wild, un- 
lovely Yorkshire world with its splendidly dreary background 
of the moors. To depict Emily without that background was 
simply not to give her at all. Charlotte Bronte writes : ' My 
sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the 
rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her out of 
a sullen hollow in a livid hill-side, her mind could make an 


Eden/ Mrs. Gaskell notes that Emily's physical suffering 
when away from Haworth was such that her family at last 
acknowledged that whoever left home, she must stay there. 
It is significant, then, that Louis's courtship is conducted 
entirely in the house. The story ought to have worked up 
to a crisis in grand surroundings, and the end should have 
been mainly gloomy. 

To her first three hooks Charlotte Bronte had, with per- 
haps a thought of sympathetic magic, or a desire to comfort 
herself, given a happy ending. In Villette she went back 
to herself as heroine, and was thus free to tell her tale with- 
out thinking what reflections it might cast on those dear to 
her ; and VUlette is her greatest book because in it the 
essence of her passionate, gloomy race finds expression. Lucy 
Snowe's temperament is her fate, and is linked with the stormy 
skies and seas which are the constant background of her 
story and at last the terrific agent of her doom. The author 
wrote to her publishers who had apparently pled for happi- 
ness for Lucy : ' Lucy must not marry Dr. John ; he is far. 
too youthful, handsome, bright- spirited, and sweet-tempered ; 
he is a " curled darling " of Nature and of Fortune ... he 
must be made very happy indeed. If Lucy marries anybody, 
it must be the Professor a man in whom there is much to 
forgive, much to " put up with ". But I am not leniently 
disposed towards Miss Frost : from the beginning I never 
meant to appoint her lines in pleasant places ' a fact which 
ought to have been obvious to all. Mr. Bronte too pled for 
a happy ending. ' But the idea of M. Paul Emanuel's death 
at sea was stamped on her imagination until it assumed the 
distinct force of reality/ 

The sound of wild winds and gloomy seas pervades the 
book, and metaphors of storms at sea are found everywhere, 
sometimes rather irrelevantly. The note is struck early on 
the night when Miss Marchmont dies. 

I had wanted to compromise with Fate : to escape occasional 
great agonies by submitting to a whole life of privation and 
small pains. Fate would not so be pacified : nor would Provi- 
dence sanction this shrinking sloth and cowardly indolence. 


One Februaiy night I remember it well there came a voice 
near Miss Marchmont's house, heard by every inmate, but 
translated, perhaps, only by one. . . . The wind was wailing at 
the windows: it had wailed all day; but as night deepened, it 
took a new tone an accent keen, piercing, almost articulate 
to the ear; a plaint, piteous and disconsolate to the nerves, 
trilled in every gust. ' Oh, hush ! hush ! ' I said in my dis- 
turbed mind, dropping my work, and making a vain effort to 
stop my ears against that subtle, searching cry. I had heard 
that very voice ere this, and compulsory observation had forced 
on me a theory as to what it boded. Three times in the course 
of my life events had taught me that these strange accents in 
the storm this ruthless, hopeless cry denote a coming state 
of the atmosphere unpropitious to life. 

The personality of the author is divided between Lucy 
Snowe and Paulina, which accounts for the introduction of 
the latter at the very beginning. Paulina's misery on parting 
from her father, and again at the indifference of Graham, 
gives out the theme of heart-sickness that is to be the subject 
of the book. Incidentally we notice that its effect, like the 
parallel arrangement in Jane Eyre, is to give us a satisfaction 
in Paulina's marriage to Dr. John which would otherwise be 
very feeble. But this is quite subordinate, the main intention 
of the book is tragic. Miss Sinclair thinks that ' the marvel- 
lous chapters which tell of Polly's childhood are manifestly 
the prologue to a tragedy of which she is the unique heroine ', 
and that there had been a shifting of intention. A careful 
study of Charlotte Bronte's method leads me to disagree. 
The subject of the book is heart-hunger, the inevitable 
parting of all who love. Lucy Snowe is to be as it were the 
organ which will take up the theme, but it is first given out 
by the child Paulina, and by the story of Miss Marchinont. 
Lucy Snowe herself appears out of a storm of misfortune, an 
incarnation of affliction. * I too well remember a time a long 
time of cold, of danger, of contention. To this hour when 
I have the nightmare, it repeats the rush and saltness of 
briny waves in my throat, and thin icy pressure on my 
lungs. . . . For many days and nights neither sun nor stars 
appeared; we cast with our hands the tackling out of the 


ship ; a heavy tempest lay on us ; all hope that we should be 
saved was taken away/ That is our real introduction to 
her. We know nothing about her previous history. One 
notices that for the first time the hero or heroine does not 
give the name to the book. Grief is the hero. The Professor 
is the manifest gerrn of Villctte, though the rather colourless 
hero has no link with Paul Emanuel. He is a male Lucy 
Snowe. Hut Madame Beck is foreshadowed in Mile. Reuter. 
The appearance of the school itself : the All^e d^fendue with 
the Professor's window in the boys' school looking out on it ; 
the intolerable minxes, who make the first lesson a terror 
to Lucy Snowe, recall the situation with which the male 
Professor has to deal, and Lucy deals with the situation in the 
same way, tearing up the minx's exercise before the class. 
But the dullness of which publishers had complained in The 
Professor is relieved partly by the sheer intensity of emotion, 
and partly by Charlotte Bronte's greatest creation, M. Paul. 
He lives one would swear one had seen him. It was a 
stroke of genius to make him ludicrous. For the mate of 
a heroine she loved perhaps she would not have dared to do 
it: we owe M. Paul to the fact that Lucy Snowe is the 
embodiment of what was ominous in her own character, and 
she did not love her. Dr. John was admittedly drawn from 
the publisher Mr. Smith. One imagines that M. Paul may 
have taken some traits from his subordinate Mr. Taylor, who 
wished to marry Charlotte Bronte and whom she talks of 
with gratitude and kindliness, but also with a faint tone of 
amusement, and generally with the epithet ' little '. Great 
art is not so much * emotion recollected ' as encased ' in tran- 
quillity '. Her detachment from the model gave the author 
the necessary calmness of perception : the element of laughter 
in which M. Paul is portrayed gives him his vitality. The 
scenes- in which his generosity is dwelt on, might have been 
written by any one and almost of any character. M. Paul 
lives because of three scenes in which he is childishly vain, 
touchy, prying, ridiculous. There is the evening reading, 
when because Lucy moves a little away from him he clears 
the whole long table and sets her at one end and himself at 

E 2 


the other. Still better is the scene on the occasion of his 
fete. The little man hidden behind the pyramid of nosegays 
and awaiting in vain Lucy's addition to his triumph has an 
intense pathos and life, because we never identify ourselves 
with him. But perhaps best of all is the reconciliation. 
Lucy finds him prying in her desk, and he pleads with her 
that she might have spent a few centimes on a gift for him. 
She produces a little sweetmeat box and a watch-guard which 
she lias made for him. ' He took out the chain a trifle 
indeed as to value, but glossy with silk and sparkling with 
beads. He liked that too admired it artlessly, like a child/ 
Then, having ascertained that it had always been intended 
for him, * straightway Monsieur opened his paletot, arranged 
the guard splendidly across his chest, displaying as much and 
suppressing as little as he could, for he had no notion of con- 
cealing what he admired and thought decorative '. 

But the true greatness of the book is that here Charlotte 
expresses fully the tormented agony of soul of the Bronte 
sisters agony of living beings as it were imprisoned in 
vacuity. One remembers the description of Jane Eyre as 
she paces the gallery in Mr. Rochester's house before her 
love-story has begun. 

The restlessness was in my very nature ; it agitated me to 
pain sometimes. Then my sole relief was to walk along the 
corridor of the third story, backwards and forwards . . . and 
allow my mind's eye to dwell on whatever bright visions rose 
before it ... to let my heart be heaved by the exultant move- 
ment, which while it swelled it in trouble expanded it with 
life ; and best of all to open my inward ear to a tale that was 
never ended a tale my imagination created, and narrated con- 
tinuously ; quickened with all of incident, life, fire, feeling, that 
I desired and had not in my actual existence. 

Accurate truth to life had always been Charlotte's artistic 
ideal. 'The Bells', she writes in 1848, 'are very sincere in 
their worship of Truth, and they hope to apply themselves to 
the consideration of Art, so as to attain one day the power 
of speaking the language of conviction in the accents of 
persuasion ; though they rather apprehend that, whatever 


pains they take to modify and soften, an abrupt word or 
vehement tone will now and then occur to startle ears polite/ 
The fact was that her emotions were so intense, in spite of 
the humdrum quality of the external incidents of her life, 
that this truth to life involved the inclusion of a poetic 
quality. She speaks almost with dislike of Jane Austen. 
' What sees keenly, speaks aptly, moves flexibly, it suits her 
to study ; but what the blood rushes through, what is the 
unseen seat of life and the sentient target of death this 
Miss Austen ignores/ And again to Lewis, ' Miss Austen 
being as you say, without " sentiment ", without poetry, may- 
be is sensible, real (more real than true), but she cannot be 
great '. 

To express herself, then, it was necessary somehow to give 
utterance to the poetic quality in her. In the earlier books 
this was undoubtedly a source of weakness. It was apt to 
produce purple patches of the worst description. It found 
voice in those terrible ' devoirs ' of Shirley and Mile. Henri ; 
in Jane Eyre's { pictures ' ; in personifications ; and is re- 
sponsible probably for the scene with the nun to which 
I referred above. But for the most part Villette is free of 
this vice because in it the temperament of Lucy Snowe and 
her agonies of loneliness and melancholy become a perfect 
vehicle for this pressure of feeling. The subject of the agony 
of a soul yearning for an object, for a mate, and condemned 
to perpetual disappointment, to perpetual imprisonment in 
vacuity, not only welds all the incidents in the book together 
in the white heat of a passionate consciousness, but affords 
constant opportunities for that uprush of emotion which had 
done so much wrong to her art in earlier works. It is true 
that the greatest passages are spoilt by the irritating trick of 
verbal inversion a trick learned perhaps from De Quincey, 
whose 'Vision of Sudden Death had appeared in 1849, when it 
was only too likely to come home to Charlotte Bronte. But apart 
from that, De Quincey's influence was probably for good he 
taught Charlotte Bronte how to utter the vague and yet over- 
whelming sorrows of her heart. The following passage gives 
poignantly the sense of a gloom sublime in its intensity, and 


rising out of the general atmosphere and theme of the tale, 
as a stormy wind grows gradually to a climax of frenzy : 

About this time the Indian summer closed and the equinoctial 
storms began ; and for nine dark and wet days, of which the 
hours rushed on all turbulent, deaf, dishevelled bewildered 
with sounding hurricane I lay in a strange fever of the nerves 
and blood. Sleep went quite away. I used to rise in the night, 
look round for her, beseech her earnestly to return. A rattle 
of the window, a cry of the blast only replied. Sleep never 

I err. She came once, but in anger. . . . By the clock of 
St. Jean Baptiste, that dream remained scarce 15 minutes 
a brief space, but sufficing to wring my whole frame with un- 
known anguish ; to confer a nameless experience that had the 
hue, the mien, the terror, the very tone of a visitation from 

The external history of Lucy Snowe is neither the cause of 
her inner experience, nor its result, but merely a minor varia- 
tion, as it were, on the same theme. This gives impersonality 
to her emotion. At last Charlotte Bronte has found means to 
transcend the bonds of the individual. This latest heroine, 
stripped of every adornment and attraction, destitute even 
of the possession of tragic affliction, the incarnation of 
frustrated desire, becomes the mouthpiece of a great abstract 
flood of emotion and gives utterance to the Infinity within 
her creator. The intensity of pain in Villeite guarantees its 
author's immortality. 

There is not room for death. 



1. Ills Tours in Wales 

BOTH by his travels and his works Tennyson is associated 
with Wales. He appears to have made his first visit in 
1839, at a time when he was still labouring under the burden 
of sorrow which the death of his friend Hallam had imposed 
upon him. At all times a lover of quiet and seclusion, 
Tennyson was then in greater need than ever of peaceful 

On this tour he visited Aberystwyth, Barmouth, and Llan- 
beris. His account of Aberystwyth is not enthusiastic, though 
he was interested to see the quaint costume of the women and 
to hear Welsh spoken about him. He had chanced upon a 
spell of serene blue skies, golden sunshine, and placid waters. 
This was not to his taste. He loved the ' much-sounding sea ' 
and was disappointed that the bay of Aberystwyth did not 
show more of the tempestuous spirit for which it was re- 
nowned. Nor was he more fortunate with the literature 
which came into his hands during his stay. He appears to 
have stumbled upon T. J. L. Prichard's poem The Land 
Beneath the Sea and was moved to laughter by this unin- 
spired version of the legend of Seithenyn. It is tempting to 
speculate what Tennyson might have made of the theme, if 
it had come to his notice in some more suggestive form. As 
it was, the inspiration which Welsh tradition was to give 
him sprang from a different source the deeds of Arthur and 
his knights. 

Weary of the unchanging, tranquil sea, Tennyson involun- 
tarily turned his thoughts to Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire, 
where he had so often listened to the booming of the waves 
as they fell on the shore. What he had longed for and lacked 
at Aberystwyth he found at Barmouth, which rose corre- 
spondingly in his esteem. He describes it as * a good deal 
prettier place than Aberystwyth, a flat sand shore, a sea 


with breakers, looking Mablethorpe-like, and sand hills, and 
close behind them huge crags, and a long estuary with cloud- 
capt hills running up as far as Dolgelley, with Cader Idris on 
one side '. But more than anything else that Tennyson saw 
on this tour Llanberis appealed to him, and remembering the 
sombre and majestic setting of the mountain lake, as yet 
undefiled by unsightly heaps of refuse from the slate quarries, 
we cannot find this difficult to understand. 

By the time that Tennyson made his second tour in Wales, 
in 1856, he had apparently acquired some familiarity with 
Welsh song. In June of that year, when confronted with 
ruin, owing to the probable failure of the bank in which his 
money was invested, he sought consolation in the stirring 
' War-March of Captain Morgan '. That summer he returned 
to his old haunts, Barmouth and Dolgelley. The still 
pools of the stream in the Torrent Walk at Dolgelley, the 
mysterious giant steps of Cwm Bychan, and ' the high 
rejoicing lines of Cader Idris ' were all a source of wonder 
and delight. His wife records in her diary how, when climb- 
ing Cader Idris, he was caught in a sudden rainstorm, 
which blotted out everything from the family anxiously 
waiting below. ' I heard the roar of waters, streams, and 
cataracts ', she says, * and I never saw anything more awful 
than that great veil of rain drawn straight over Cader Idris, 
pale light at the lower edge. It looked as if death were 
behind it, and made rne shudder when I thought he was 
there/ However, Tennyson sent a reassuring message by his 
guide and ultimately joined his family in safety. Other 
places visited by the poet were Harlech, Festiniog, Llanidloes, 
Builth, and Caerleon. The last-named, with its Roman remains 
and memories of Arthur, made a deep impression on Tennyson. 
In a letter written amid the quiet of this ruined shrine of 
former greatness, he says, ' The Usk murmurs by my windows, 
and I sit like King Arthur in Caerleon '. From Caerleon 
excursions were made to Merthyr Tydvil, to Raglan, and to 
Caerphilly, and then the party returned home through Brecon, 
Gloucester, and Salisbury. 

Twelve years later Tennyson again came to Caerphilly and 


also visited Chepstow and Tintem. He beheld the ruins of 
the old abbey and the expanse of the surrounding country 
at much the same season as Wordsworth did seventy years 
before. Through the bare windows of the abbey he saw the 
golden cornfields, and, as he climbed an adjacent height, 
watched the Wye force its way past bluffs crowned with 
dark woods towards its junction with the Severn. 

In 1871 Tennyson made yet another tour in Wales, this 
time in the north. Leaving home on 7 August, he broke his 
journey at Wrexham to stay with Mr. Archibald Peel, who 
had enjoyed his friendship for some twenty years. From 
here he went on to Llanberis. At the hotel where he put up, 
he was disturbed by the dancing of a jovial party in the room 
above his own, and in a letter humorously refers to the inci- 
dent : 

Dancing above was heard, heavy feet to the sound of a light air, 
Light were the feet, no doubt, but floors were misrepresenting. 

Early the following morning Tennyson set out from Llan- 
beris and walked through Nant Gwynant to Beddgelert. He 
records his impressions thus : 

Walked to the Vale Gwynant, Llyn Gwynant shone very 


Touched by the morning sun, great mountains glorying o'er it, 
Moel Hebog loom'd out, and Siabod tovver'd up in aether : 
Liked Beddgelert much, flat green with murmur of waters, 
Bathed in a deep still pool not far from Pont Aberglaslyn 
(Ravens croak'd, and took white, human skin for a lambkin). 
Then we returned. What a day ! Maily more if fate will 
allow it. 

When Tennyson came to write his tales of Arthur and his 
knights, the landscapes that he had seen in Wales would 
naturally rise before his eyes and form the background of 
some of his Idylls. From Malory he had imbibed the idealized 
conception of a feudal ruler whose fame for bravery and 
courtesy had spread through many lands and whose knights 
were devoted to his service. Tennyson, gazing upon the ruins 
of castles raised by Norman kings and nobles, peopled them 
with visions of the figures that he had come to love in 


medieval legend. It is conceivable that such a castle as is 
described in The Marriage of Geraint is a reminiscence of his 
Welsh tours : 

Then rode Geraint into the castle court, 

His charger trampling many a prickly star 

Of sprouted thistle on the broken stones. 

He look'd and saw that all was ruinous. 

Here stood a shatter'd archway plumed with fern ; 

And here had fallen a great part of a tower, 

Whole, like a crag that tumbles from the cliff. 

And like a ciag was gay with wilding flowers ; 

And high above a piece of turret stair, 

Worn by the feet that now were silent, wound 

Bare to the sun, and monstrous ivy-stems 

Claspt the gray walls with hairy-fibred arms. 

And suck'd the joining of the stones, and look'd 

A knot, beneath, of snakes, aloft, a grove. 

Whatever scene may have prompted this description as 
a whole, we know that the concluding lines were suggested 
by the sight of the ivy-covered ruins of Tinterri Abbey. In 
various ways this spot was of especial significance to Tennyson. 
In the first place it formed the background of one of Words- 
worth's greatest poems, for which, in spite of the fault that 
he found with itR over-lengthy opening, Tennyson had a pro- 
found admiration. Again, Tintern had a personal claim upon 
him. Not far away, on the opposite side of the Bristol 
Channel, was CleVedon, in whose lonely church on the hill 
overlooking the broad, flowing waters where the Severn joins 
the sea, lay the remains of Arthur Hallam. Inevitably, when 
the poet visited Thitern, his mind wandered to the friend 
whose body had been conveyed from Vienna to its final 
resting-place by this western shore, and he composed the 
beautiful lines which afterwards appeared in the nineteenth 
canto of In Memoriam : 

The Danube to the Severn gave 

The darkened heart that beat no more ; 
They laid him by the pleasant shore, 

And in the hearing of the wave. 


There twice a day the Severn fills ; 
The salt sea- water passes by, 
And hushes half the babbling Wye, 

And makes a silence in the hills. 

The Wye is hush'd nor moved along, 
And hush'd my deepest grief of all, 
When fill'd with tears that cannot fall, 

I brim with sorrow drowning song. 

The tide flows down, the wave again 

Is vocal in its wooded walls ; 

My deeper anguish also falls, 
And I can speak a little then. 

Another of Tennyson's poems inspired by Tintern Abbey 
was Tears, idle tears. At the sight of the magnificent ruins 
and of the golden cornfields stretching around him, he 
was seized with a feeling of regret for the passing of all 
that is fair to look upon. Possibly the memory of Hallam 
subconsciously lent an added poignancy to this mood of 
tender longing. However, Tennyson informed Locker- 
Lampson that what moved him to write the poem was not 
real woe, but rather the yearning that young people occa- 
sionally experience for that which seems to have departed 
for ever. This feeling, which was especially strong in Tenny- 
son as a youth, finds expression in the lines : 

Tears, idle tears, I know not what they mean, 
Tears from the depth of some divine despair 
Rise in the heart, and gather to the eyes, 
In looking on the happy autumn-fields 
And thinking of the days that are no more. 

Tennyson's visit to the Welsh coast in 1839 gave rise to 
a beautiful simile in The Princess. It occurs in the second 
part, in the description of Lady Blanche's daughter, the 
lovely Melissa, who has coine with a message from her 
mother. She stands hesitating upon the threshold : 

with her lips apart, 

And all her thoughts as fair within her eyes, 
As bottom agates seen to wave and float 
In crystal currents of clear morning seas. 


In reply to some wiseacres who would have it that the 
simile was taken partly from Beaumont and Fletcher, partly 
from Shakespeare, Tennyson stated that it was founded on 
his own observations while bathing in Wales. 

The place which suggested this passage might have been 
either Barmouth or Aberystwyth. There can be no such 
doubt concerning the scene which inspired Canto 80 of la 
Memoriam. It was Barmouth, and presumably on the occa- 
sion of the poet's first tour in 1839. On a beautiful evening 
he stands and gazes out to sea. Between two promontories 
the tide flows calmly along, a west wind gently wafts the 
rich fragrance of summer flowers after rain, the solemn shades 
of evening descend, and far away, bathed in the mysterious 
light of the setting sun, gleams the rising star. To the heart 
of the poet, lacerated by memories of his lost friend, comes 
a feeling of harmony long unknown : 

Sweet after showers, ambrosial air, 

That rollest from the gorgeous gloom 
Of evening over brake and bloom 

And meadow, slowly breathing bare 

The round of space, and rapt below 
Thro' all the dewy-tassell'd wood, 
And shadowing down the horned flood 

In ripples, fan my brows and blow 

The fever from my cheek, and sigh 

The full'new life that feeds thy breath 
Throughout my frame, till Doubt and Death, 

111 brethren, let the fancy fly 

From belt to belt of crimson seas 

On leagues of odour streaming far, 

To where in yonder orient star 
A hundred spirits whisper l Peace '. 

This evening at Barmouth was evidently a supreme and 
unforgettable spiritual experience. At Llanberis Tennyson 
had no moments of such intense and sublime ecstasy, but in 
his poems there are several reminiscences of his stay there. 
Edwin Morris was written at Llanberis, which Tennyson has 


taken as the setting of the poem. He speaks of the bracken 
rusted on the crags and of a rained castle, presumably the 
old stronghold of Dolbadarn : 


When men knew how to build, upon a rock 
With turrets lichen-gilded like a rock. 

At the end of the poem the lover, fondly recalling his blissful 
rambles by the lake, says : 

In tho dust and drouth of London life 
She moves among my visions of the lake, 
While the prime swallow dips his wing, or then 
While the gold-lily blows, and overhead 
The light cloud smoulders on the summer crag. 

It would, of courfce, be foolish to apply these lines literally 
to the poet himself, but it is perhaps permissible to read in 
them something of the delight which we know Tennyson to 
have felt in this mountain retreat. Though Edwin Morris is 
but one of Tennyson's minor poems, the last line is striking 
in its beauty and fitness. 

Llanberis is also the scene of The Golden Year, another 
of the early poems. The poet tells how he and ' old James * 
had been up Snowdon and on their descent found Leonard at 
Llanberis. With him they crossed between Llyn Padarn and 
Llyn Peris and climbed the hill on the opposite side. The 
poem ends with a description of the blasting in the hills, 
whose mighty echoes come as an effective contrast to the 
heated arguments which these puny mortals have just been 
putting forth : 

He spoke ; and, high above, T heard them blast 
The steep slate-quarry, and the great echo flap 
And buffet round the hills, from bluff to bluff. 

Yet another reminiscence of Llanberis appears in The 
Sisters. Tennyson revives the memory of the summer night 
when first he saw it by the gleam of lightning piercing the 
darkness, and draws from it support for the view that love 
at first sight for a face seen but a moment and then gone 
though strange, is possible. Once, he says : 


when first 

I came on Like Llanberris in the dark, 
A moonless night with storm one lightning-fork 
Flash'd out the lake ; and tho' I loiter'd there 
The full day after, yet in retrospect 
That less than momentary thunder-sketch 
Of lake and mountain conquers all the day. 

The mention of Llanberis inevitably brings Snowdon to the 
mind, and Snowdon also figures in Tennyson's poetry. In the 
seventh part of The Princess the Lady Ida is shown mourn- 
ing over the collapse of her ideals. She climbs to the roof 
and looking down sees her woman's sanctuary overrun by 
men. To emphasize her helplessness Tennyson introduces as 
a simile the sudden storm which he once witnessed from the 
top of Snowdon as he gazed over the neighbouring mountains 
to the coast and the sea beyond. Ida is 

As one that climbs a peak to gaze 
O'er land and main, and sees a great black cloud 
Drag inward from the deeps, a wall of night, 
Blot out the slope of sea from verge to shore, 
And suck the blinding splendour from the sand, 
And quenching lake by lake and tarn by tarn 
Expunge the world. 

Though no locality is this time specified, the hills of Wales 
again rise before Tennyson's eye in Sir John Oldcastle. He 
pictures the zealous reformer, who at the beginning of the 
fifteenth century has fled from the Tower and sought a 
refuge among the Welsh mountains. Oldcastle wanders about, 
enduring great hardships patiently and cheerfully, uplifted 
by his faith in God and his hope in the future : 

God is with me in this wilderness, 
These wet black passes and foam-churning chasms 
And God's free air, and hope of better things. 

Oldcastle wishes that he could speak the tongue of those 
among whom he now wanders in exile, not for the purpose 
of winning them to the true faith, though he contemplates 
doing so at some future season, but to satisfy his gnawing 
hunger. As it is, no sooner is his English accent heard than 


memories of bloody feuds not yet appeased prompt a sullen 
refusal of his request for bread : 

I would I knew their speech ; not now to glean, 

Not now I hope to do it some scatter'd ears, 

Some ears for Christ in this wild field of Wales 

But, bread, merely for bread. This tongue that wagg'd 

They said with such heretical arrogance 

Against the proud archbishop Arundel 

So much God's was fluent in it is here 

But as a Latin Bible 1o tho crowd ; 

' Bara ! ' ] what V The shepherd, when I speak, 

Vailing a sudden eyelid with his hard 

i Dim Saesneg ' 2 passes, wroth at things of old 

No fault of mine. Had ho God's word in Welsh 

lie might be kindlier ; happily come the da 

As may be seen from this poem, Tennyson possessed some 
knowledge of the Welsh tongue and iri Geraint and Enid his 
transformation of the brutal earl's name from its Welsh form 
to the English Doorm proves his familiarity with Welsh pro- 
nunciation. The Marriage of Gerai nt and Geraint and Enid, 
originally published as one poem under the name of Enid, 
were practically completed during Tennyson's tour of 1856. 
It is but natural therefore that these poems should be un- 
usually rich in allusions to Welsh scenes. In The Marriage 
of Geraint the hero is so inspired by his love for Enid that, 
when he challenges the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk, he feels 
as if he could move Cader Idris. And when he has won Enid 
he brings her to Arthur's capital where the Queen awaits 
them with impatience. 

Now thrice that morning Guinevere had climb'd 
The giant tower, from whose high crest, they say, 
Men saw the goodly hills of Somerset, 
And white sails flying on the yellow sea ; 
* But not to goodly hill or yellow sea 
Look'd the fair Queen, but up the vale of Usk, 
By the flat meadow, till she saw them come. 

In Geraint and Enid the Usk is again mentioned, when Enid 
warns Geraint of three villains lying in ambush. 

1 Bread. 2 No English. 


In scarce longer time 
Than at Caerleon the full-tided Usk, 
Before he turn to f;ill seaward again, 
Pauses, did Enid, keeping watch, behold 

Three other horsemen. 

Recollections of North Wales also emerge in Geralnt and 
Enid. Once, as Tennyson stood near Festiniog listening to 
the brawling of a mountain-torrent, he heard the louder roar 
of a large waterfall and he uses this experience as a simile to 
convey the effect of Geraint's massive voice heard above the 
din of battle. 

As one, 

That listens near a torrent mountain-brook, 
All thro' the crash of the near cataract hears 
The drumming- thunder of the huger fall 
At distance, were the soldiers wont to hear 
His voice in battle. 

At the close of the poem occurs yet another simile, which 
embodies a personal observation of Tennyson. Geraint, now 
reconciled to Enid, lies recovering of his grievous wound, and 
her gentle presence 

Fill'd all the genial courses of his blood 
With deeper and with ever deeper love, 
As the south-west that blowing Bala lake 
Fills all the sacred Dee. 

2. His Knowledge of Welsh Literature and Tradition 

These reminiscences of Tennyson's Welsh tours are by no 
means the only link which connects him with Wales. He 
knew something of Welsh history, literature, and tradition. 
As his son records in the Memoir, before 1840 Tennyson 
could not decide whether to cast the Arthurian legends into 
the form of an epic or into that of a musical masque, but 
having settled on the epic form he abandoned himself to 
serious study of his theme. ' He thought, read, and talked 
about King Arthur.' Keeping his goal in view, Tennyson 


set himself, during his stay in Wales in 1856, to acquire some 
knowledge of Welsh with the help of local schoolmasters, and 
he and his wife read together the Hanes Cymru of Thomas 
Price, the poems of Llywarch Hen, and the Mabinogion. 

One of the best known tales in the Mabinogion is that of 
' Math the Son of Mathonwy ', in the course of which it is 
narrated how Math and Gwydion by magic wrought a maiden 
from the blossoms of the oak, the broom, and the meadow- 
sweet. She was the fairest and most graceful being that 
man ever saw and they named her Blodeuwedd. In The 
Marriage of Geraint the mother of Enid, arraying her in 
a rich silken robe, compares her to this maiden of wondrous 
beauty. However, the only tale in the Mabinogion which 
Tennyson treated fully was that of ' Geraint the Son of 
Erbin '. 

A comparison of Tennyson's version with the original is 
illuminating in various ways. One notices immediately 
a number of changes in the narrative, the object of which 
was to secure greater unity. In the tale, Limours figures 
only in the second part, after the marriage of Geraint and 
Enid. Tennyson makes him a suitor, who had pestered Enid 
with his attentions long before she had met Geraint. Simi- 
larly, Edyrn, instead of vanishing early on, as in the tale, is 
reintroduced at the close. In order to weld together both 
parts of his story, Tennyson also makes the dress of Enid an 
important feature, so much so that at times, especially 
towards the end of The Marriage of Geraint, the space given 
to it seems disproportionate. The Queen is made to say that, 
even if Geraint's bride were a beggar, she would clothe her 
like the sun ; hence Geraint brings Enid to court in her faded 
silk, and this it is which holds a higher place in her affection 
than the gorgeous robe that Doorm the tempter offers her. 
Tennyson is equally careful to relate his story to the central 
theme of the Idylls of the King, which gives it a purpose all 
its own. On the morning of the hunt Guinevere is pictured 
as lying in bed lost in sweet dreams of Lancelot, and it is the 
fear lest her example should taint Enid which makes Geraint 
withdraw his wife from the court. At the close Tennyson 


brings before us the ideal king, and it is while fighting for 
Arthur that Geraint perishes. 

The firm constructive hand of Tennyson is again seen in 
the omission of many details in the medieval tale which 
appeared to him discursive and irrelevant. He never forgot 
that he wished to concentrate on Geraint and Enid, and that 
every thing else must be subordinated to the narrative of their 
relations. The tale opens by saying that Arthur had held 
court at Caerleon for seven Easters and five Christmases, but 
that on this occasion it was Whitsuntide Then it explains 
that Caerleon was chosen because it was so easy of access by 
sea and land. Tennyson briefly mentions that Arthur held 
court at Caerleon at Whitsuntide. Next the tale speaks of 
the nine tributary kings, the earls and barons who were 
Arthur's guests, of the thirteen churches set apart for mass 
and of how they were allotted one for Arthur and his 
guests, one for the Queen and her ladies, one for the Steward 
of the Household and the suitors, a fourth for the Franks 
and other officers, and the remaining nine for the Masters of 
the Household, of whom the most famous was Gwalchraai 
because of his noble birth and prowess in war. We then 
hear who was Arthur's chief porter, how he carried out his 
office and how he had seven men under him whose task it 
was, except at one of the high festivals, to guard Arthur. 
Thereupon follow their names, lineage, and personal peculiari- 
ties, while in the meantime the story is delayed. Tennyson 
expedites it by leaving out all these particulars. 

Characteristic of the old Welsh narrator is not only his 
love of genealogy but also his passion for festivities, and so 
he proceeds to relate how Arthur and his court spent the 
night before the hunt in song and entertainments He then 
tells how they went to bed, how Arthur on awaking called 
his four attendants, whose names and lineage are of course 
given, and how they arrayed Arthur. We learn further that 
the King noticed Guinevere so fast asleep that she did not 
move in her bed, and that he told the attendants not to awake 
her ; then that he heard the horns sounding, one from near 
the lodging of the chief huntsman and the other from near 


that of the chief page. All this Tennyson dismisses in two 
lines : 

So with the morning all the court were gone. 
But Guinevere lay late into the morn. 

The contrast between the poem and the tale may again be 
illustrated from the scene where Geraint and Enid are enter- 
tained at court. The tale mentions the minstrelsy, the ample 
supply of liquor, the multitude of games, and the bountiful 
gifts bestowed upon Enid, including the stag's head which 
increased her fame and added to the number of her friends. 
To Tennyson all this was as nothing, and he merely says of 
Enid that the Queen 

clothed her for her bridals like the sun ; 
And all that week was old Caerleon gay. 

Another portion of the tale which Tennyson modified was 
that concerning the departure of Geraint and Enid from 
Arthur's court after their marriage. The tale describes how 
ambassadors came from Erbin of Cornwall, who asked that 
his son should be allowed to return, as he himself was grow- 
ing old and his neighbours began to cast covetous eyes on 
his possessions, so that Geraint would be better occupied in 
defending these territories than in winning profitless tourna- 
ments. It proceeds to relate how the ambassadors refreshed 
themselves after their journey and how Arthur upon reflec- 
tion found it but right that Geraint should go. We hear 
likewise of the conversation between Geraint and Arthur and 
the Queen ; of those who accompanied Geraint ; of the dis- 
cussions about the desirability of Edyrn forming one of their 
number ; of the company awaiting Geraint on the other side 
of the Severn; of the welcome given to him in his own land; 
of the rejoicing at Erbin's court, the minstrelsy, games, and 
feasting ; of how Erbiii handed over the power to Geraint in 
spite of his reluctance ; of how the vassals pledged them- 
selves to Geraint ; of the gifts which were exchanged, and of 
Geraint's progress through Cornwall to receive homage ; and 
finally of how he escorted the nobles, who had come with him 

from Arthur's court, on their homeward journey and after- 


r <w 


wards inspected even the uttermost parts of his dominions. 
In Tennyson, on tbe other hand, nothing is said of the aged 
Erbin's pathetic appeal; the reason for Geraint's departure 
is that he fears the effect upon Enid of the Queen's example 
and hence gives as a pretext to the King the fact that his 
princedom, bordering on lands infested with bandits, needs 
his protecting arm. All the other details are compressed 
into four lines : 

And the King 

Mused for a little on his plea, but, last, 
Allowing it, the prince and Enid rode, 
And fifty knights rode with them, to the shores 
Of Severn, and they past to their own land. 

Previously there is in the tale an awkward passage which 
Tennyson was too much of an artist to leave unaltered. 
After the encounter with the Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk 
the story of Geraint and Enid is dropped for some time, and 
the tale reverts to Arthur's hunting of the stag, and intro- 
duces an argument as to who shall be presented with its 
head. This being settled, it goes on to describe in detail the 
sorry appearance of Edyrn when he came to Arthur's court, 
the conversation with the King arid Queen, the treatment 
accorded to Edyrn and his lady, and the healing of his 
wounds by Morgan Tud, the royal physician. Only after 
this lengthy digression is the story of Geraint and Enid 
resumed, Tennyson avoids this jerky conduct of the narra- 
tive. He ignores the K\mt and dismisses Edyrn briefly, 
returning to him at the close of the poem, when the lovers' 
tale is ended. 

Tennyson saw clearly that many points which a medieval 
writer would be disposed to comment on were riot merely un- 
essential to the main theme but even a hindrance to it, 
What more natural, when Geraint sets out with Enid,- than 
that the tale should explain what steps were taken to carry 
on the administration in his absence ? But Tennyson passes 
over it in silence. Again, the medieval reader would delight 
in the description of the horses of the dwarf, the knight and 
the lady, and of the armour or raiment they wore. Here 


also Tennyson says nothing. Not less significant is his 
treatment of the combats in which the tale abounds. The old 
writer revelled in fighting, so much so that the frequent 
triumphs of the hero become extravagant, and we find our- 
selves no longer in the world of reality but in the realm of 
marvels. Tennyson begins the encounter of Geraint with the 
Knight of the Sparrow-Hawk by shortening the account 
of the tournament ; it is not allowed to obscure the central 
motive. In the description of Geraint's quest the tale makes 
him defeat three different bands of robbers. Their numbers, 
whether three, four, or five, are immaterial. Like so many 
puppets they come forward and are mechanically dispatched 
by Geraint. Tennyson omits one of these combats, reduces 
the number of assailants in the others, and by the manner of 
his description renders his story more convincing. In the first 
combat Geraint kills his first enemy witli his lance, and then, 
darting out his sword to right and left, puts the others out of 
action ; in the second the leader is pictured as one of enormous 
stature, and as soon as he is overthrown his companions flee 
in panic. 1 In the talc the combat which follows the flight of 
Geraint and Enid from the town is ludicrous. Eighty knights 
in succession attack Geraint and with mechanical precision 
each is overcome with one blow. The Earl comes next and 
holds out a little longer, but only to be defeated in his turn. 
Tennyson is infinitely more vivid, dramatic, and credible 

when he tells how 

Wild Limours, 

Borne on a black horse, like a thunder-cloud 
Whose skirts are looseii'd by the breaking storm, 
Half ridden off with by the thing he rode, 
And all in passion uttering a dry shriek, 
Dash'd on Geraint. 

Limours is overthrown, then the man behind him, whereupon 
the rest, seized with terror at the approach of Geraint, turn 
their horses in flight. 

The poeni omits altogether several encounters, such as that 

1 Variety is also obtained by the changing attitude of Enid who in the 
first combat looks on, but in the second anxiously stands aside with 


with Gwiffert Petit, who will let no one pass his tower with- 
out a duel, those- with Kai and Gwalchmai, when Geraint 
refuses to accompany them to Arthur, and that with the 
giants. Tennyson would have nothing to do with adventure 
for its own sake, and he felt that all these struggles by their 
very number became incredible and also impeded the march 
of the main story. Although his hero's qualities are heightened, 
Tennyson did not wish him to be a mere fairy-tale figure. 
For this reason, and also because the tale of the reconciliation 
of Geraint and Enid was complete, he omitted as superfluous 
the adventure of the magic mist. 

In harmony with Tennyson's desire to avoid mere marvels 
is his treatment of character. With him characterization 
and the analysis of motive take a prominent place ; in the 
tale they are fragmentary or non-existent. In no respect are 
the medieval tale and the nineteenth -century poem more 
unlike than in the love of incident on the one hand and the 
interest in psychology on the other. Characters such as the 
dwarf and Edyrn his master, Limours, Doorin, Enid's mother 
and Yniol assume much clearer shape under Tennyson's 
hand. In the tale no explanation is given of the dwarf's 
churlish conduct to the Queen's attendant. Tennyson pictures 
him as old, vicious, irritable, and proud like his haughty 
master, so that at once we understand his action. At a later 
stage, when Edyrn has ' weeded his heart ' and is about to be 
admitted to the Round Table, he is made to recount to Enid 
the causes of his former arrogance. 

To the character of Limours Tennyson devotes far more 
attention than the corresponding figure receives in the tale. 
In the latter he is shown in a more favourable light. Thus, 
when he is informed of the arrival of Geraint and Enid in his 
town, he gives instructions that they shall be honourably 
used, sends a youth to wait upon them, and himself pays 
a visit of courtesy. He has no evil intent, and it is only on 
seeing the beauty of Enid that he tries to induce her under 
threats of violence to abandon Geraint. Tennyson, who intro- 

averted gaze, just as she warns Geraint sometimes by speech, sometimes 
by pointing silently to the dust raised by the hoofs of his foes. 


duces Limours as a suitor for Enid in the earlier portion of 
the story, has already sketched the man : 

A creature wholly given to brawls and wine, 
Drunk even when he woo'd. 

We are therefore prepared for Limours when he and his 
followers burst into the room of Geraint and Enid. Effe- 
minate in appearance and pale from dissipation, he addresses 
Geraint face to face with a courtly air, but amidst this dis- 
play of cordiality watches out of the corner of his eye the 
sad and lonely Enid. Geraint offers refreshment and Limours, 
flushed with wine, tells tales of double meaning and his wit 
having made Geraint merry, he asks leave to speak to her. 
He then declares his love in a sentimental vein. She is the 
pilot star of his solitary life, his early and his only love. It 
is the loss of her which has made him wild, and yet he is not 
wholly riotous. He insinuates that Geraint has wearied of 
her ; she need but say the word and he shall be removed. If 
she will not, Limours threatens to take advantage of his 
superior power, but the next moment apologizes for his mad- 
ness. Then 

Low nl leave-taking, with his brandish'd plume 
Brushing his instep, bow'd the all-amorous earl. 

Tennyson has no wish that our sympathy should be won 
by the maudlin self-pity of Limours. He shows him on his 
way home with ' wine-heated eyes ', babbling to his followers 
of Enid's love for him. 

Another full-length portrait is that of Earl Doorm. In the 
tale the Earl is courteous to Enid at first and only when his 
desires are thwarted does he use force. His arguments, when 
he seeks to induce her to forget Geraint, are almost kindly : 
4 1 will act towards thee in such wise, that thou needest not 
be sorrowful, whether yonder knight live or die. Behold, 
a good Earldom, together with myself, will I bestow on thee ; 
be therefore happy and joyful/ It is not until Enid has irri- 
tated him by her stubborn refusal that he loses his temper 
and boxes her ears. In Tennyson, on the other hand, the 
wild, licentious character of the Earl is suggested from the 


beginning. As Enid sat by the wounded Geraint no one 
heeded her : 

A woman weoping for her murder VI mate 
Was cared as much for as a summer shower. 

One took him for a victim of the Earl and found it too 
perilous to stop and pity him. Then came one of Doorm's 
men half-whistling, half -singing a coarse song and drove the 
dust in Enid's eyes. Another traveller, a fugitive 

flying from the wrath of Doorm 
Before an ever-fancied arrow, made 
The long way smoke beneath him in his fear. 

We are thus ready for the entry of the gigantic Doorm. 
Tennyson presents him to us : 

Broad-faced with under-fringe of russet beard, 
Bound on a foray, rolling eyes of prey. 

With loud voice, like one hailing a ship, he rudely accosts 
Enid. If Geraint is not dead, why need she wail ? If he is, 
then she is a fool wailing will not bring him back to life, 
and her tears mar her beauty. He speaks as one to whom 
the higher emotions are entirely unknown and to whom death 
is an everyday sight. His predatory instinct is revealed in 
his command to look after Geraint's steed, his sensual nature 
in the lustful eye which he at once casts on Enid. But he 
is not one to let his plans be altered for the sake of a 
woman, and so, unlike the knight in the tale, he does not 
chivalrously escort Enid to his castle but proceeds on his 
foray. Geraint and Enid are entrusted to two brawny spear- 
men, as brutal and callous as their master. Angered at the 
thought of losing their share of the booty, on reaching the 
castle they throw down in haste the bier on which the wounded 
Geraint is lying and rush out, cursing him and Enid, their 
master, and their own souls. 

It is noteworthy how Tennyson repeatedly emphasizes the 
nakedness of the hall. There is no sign of refinement, all is 
hard and uncouth like the Earl himself. The scene in the 
hall that follows the return of Doorrn and his men strengthens 


the impression already received. They hurl down their spears 
with a clatter ; Doorm hammers on the table with the haft 
of his knife, while hogs and quarters of beeves are brought 
in and the hall is dim with steam. No word is spoken as 
they sit down and eat noisily, ' feeding like horses '. The 
gentle Enid shrinks from these bestial creatures, but Doorm, 
catching sight of her, urges her to eat, and in the presence of 
the crowd brazenly declares that were she not so pale, she 
might share his earldom. At this : 

The brawny spearman let his cheek 
Bulge with the unswallow'd piece, and turning stared, 

while the women with venomous tongue hiss in hate and 
jealousy. With low voice and drooping head, Enid merely 
asks to be left alone. Doorm, satisfied with his own gracious- 
ness, assumes that she has thanked him and urges her to eat 
and be glad. When she asks how she can be glad, the Earl 
in his fury carries her by main force to the table and thrusts 
the dish before her. This emphasis on Doorm's brutality 
springs from Tennyson's conception ; the prototype in the 
tale ' many times desired her to eat '. To the poet we owe 
also the vivid picture of the Earl striding up and down the 
hall, gnawing now his upper, now his lower lip or his russet 
beard. It is characteristic of his mentality that he should 
think to win Enid by the gift of a beautiful robe. How can 
an earthy creature like this understand the pathetic appeal : 

Pray you be gentle, pray you let me be. 
I never loved, can never love but him. 
Yea, God, I pray you of your gentleness, 
He being as he is, to let me be. 

Fidelity of this kind is beyond Doorm's ken and he answers 
with the argument most familiar to him a blow. Such is 
Doorm, a vivid figure who seems to have stepped out of the 
reign of King Stephen, when men said in bitter despair that 
Christ and his saints slept, and this figure is entirely Tenny- 
son's creation. The very antithesis of the Tennysonian ideal 
of reverence, wisdom, temperance, and self-control, Doorm is 


The characters of Enid's father and mother are not drawn 
in such detail and .yet they are Jess shadowy than in the tale. 
The mother's affection for and pride in her daughter and her 
weakness for dress are shown. Hence her silent indignation 
when Geraint insists on taking Enid to Arthur's court in a 
worn and faded gown. Even in adversity she cannot forget 
that she comes from 

a goodly house, 

With store of rich apparel, sumptuous fare, 
And page, and maid, and squire, and seneschal, 
And pastime both of hawk and hound, and all 
That appertains to noble maintenance. 

Still more interesting than Tennyson's portrayal of the 
mother is his analysis of the father. Just as he underlines 
the baseness of Limours and Doorm, so he idealizes Yniol. 
In the tale Yniol is far from immaculate and indeed richly 
deserves the misfortune that comes upon him. His crime was 
that he seized the possessions of his nephew, with the result, 
as Yniol informs Geraint, that ' when he came to his strength, 
he demanded of me his property, but I withheld it from him. 
So he made war upon me, and wrested from me all that 
I possessed/ We are inclined to hold with the nephew and 
see no reason why the gallant and chivalrous Geraint of 
Tennyson's conception should intervene on behalf of this 
Yniol. Tennyson perceived the difficulty and fearing also 
that an unsympathetic Yniol might weaken the attraction of 
Enid, he completely altered the motives. The fault lies in 
the tempestuous character of the nephew, knowing which, 
Yniol rejects his sXiit for the hand of Enid. In revenge the 
nephew ousts him from his earldom and sacks the castle. 
This is all the more easily done, because, owing to his lavish 
hospitality, Yniol is reduced in means, and his servants are 
readily won over by large bribes. Our sympathy is- thus 
transferred to Yniol, who is a pleasing, if somewhat weak 
personality. He lacks will-power and is so gentle that he lets 
men have their way. In his adversity he displays a similar 
passivity and meekly endures the wrongs inflicted on him, 
even at the risk of incurring contempt. The same paternal 


care as led him to thwart his nephew is manifest when Geraint 
requests that Enid may be the lady whom he will uphold in 
the tournament. Yniol wishes that his wife shall first consult 
Enid's inclination, for 

a maiden is a tender thing 
And best by her that bore her understood. 

What could be more natural and desirable than that an Yniol 
such as this should receive the help of Geraint ? 

It is above all upon the characters of Geraint and Enid 
and their interaction that Tennyson has bestowed his skill 
and artistry. Tennyson's Geraint is the flower of chivalry, and 
the problem which the poet has to solve is how to account for 
the hero's unkindness to Enid without destroying our belief 
in his noble qualities. In what measure and by what means 
he achieves this will be seen later. As for Enid, she is a very 
different personage from her counterpart in the Mabinogion. 
The latter embodies the medieval ideal of woman, unques- 
tioning obedience to husband and parents, by whom she is 
treated accordingly. Tennyson's Enid, on the other hand, is 
no insignificant figure, and throughout the poem appears in 
the foreground more often than in the tale. We have an 
example in the first meeting of Geraint and Enid. The 
medieval narrator, describing Geraint's arrival at the hall of 
Yniol, says that he beheld * a maiden, upon whom were a 
vest and a veil, that were old, and beginning to be worn out. 
And, truly, he never saw a maiden more full of comeliness, 
and grace, and beauty than she. 3 Conscious that this is one 
of the vital situations of his story, Tennyson gives it a 
greater amplitude and richness. As Geraint approaches, he 
hears Enid singing, and the description that ensues transcends 
the mundane and carries us away to the world of romance. 
Love as instantaneous and imperishable as that of Tristan 
for Isolt has come to Geraint : 

Here, by God's rood, is the one maid for me. 

Subsequently in the tale Enid waits upon Geraint, even 
disarrays him, and gives his horse provender, all which 
Geraint seems to take for granted. In the poem Geraint's 


chivalry prompts him to rise and help Enid in her task, and 
only reluctantly does he acquiesce when Yniol informs him 
that the custom of the house will not permit of a guest 
serving himself. Thus, owing to Tennyson's skilful presenta- 
tion, in spite of Geraint's remissness, his reputation for 
courtesy is enhanced. Immediately after, the tale relates 
that Enid, having bought provisions in the town, apologizes 
for their inadequacy, and that Geraint answers curtly, ' It is 
good enough ', an incident which Tennyson suppresses. Equally 
characteristic is the passage in the tale where Geraint asks 
leave to use the name of Enid in challenging the Knight of 
the Sparrow-Hawk. Her father answers, ' Gladly will I per- 
mit thee '. An echo of an age when a daughter's obedience 
was a matter of course. But Tennyson's Geraint in requesting 
this favour declares his admiration for Enid ; it is not merely 
that for the purpose of the tournament he needs some lady 
to uphold. And Yniol's answer is that her own inclinations 
must first be discovered. After the tournament Yniol in the 
tale gives Enid away as he would one of his serfs or his 
goods and chattels, and Geraint is as curt and masterful as 
he. ' " Chieftain, behold the maiden for whom thou didst 
challenge at the tournament, I bestow her upon thee." " She 
shall go with me ", said Geraint, " to the Court of Arthur; and 
Arthur and Gwenhwyvar they shall dispose of her as they 
will. Let not the damsel array herself except in her vest and 
veil, until she come to the Court of Arthur, to be clad by 
Gwenhwyvar in such garments as she may choose." ' The 
corresponding scene in Tennyson forms an illuminating con- 
trast. Representing as it does another great crisis in Enid's 
life, it is dealt with fully, and her emotions are set forth in 
detail. The question of her attire is not so easy of solution 
as in the tale ; we are no longer in the age of patient Griselda. 
Geraint says to her father : 

Earl, entreat her by my love, 
Albeit I give no reason but my wish, 
That she ride with me in her faded silk. 

Even after this Geraint feels called upon to make elaborate 
apologies and explanations to Enid's mother. This prominence 


of the women, the kindly consideration of Yniol and the 
deference of Geraint are altogether foreign to the tale. Again 
we seem to step back several centuries when, in the tale, after 
the first combat, Geraint once more enjoins silence upon Enid. 
' " I declare unto Heaven," said he, " if thou doest not thus, it 
will be to thy cost/' " I will do, as far as I can, Lord ", said 
she, " according to thy desire/' ' Of these threats and this 
slave-like obedience there is no trace in Tennyson. His Enid 
observes Geraint's commands, it is true, but not because she 
is cowed by a bully. 

Not only has Tennyson modernized the relations of Geraint 
and Enid, he has made their actions more reasonable. The 
development of their love is traced step by step in a manner 
which the tale does not even attempt. Geraint, charmed by 
the singing of Enid, is completely won by her gentle demeanour 
and involuntarily his eyes follow her as she moves about the 
hall. As for Enid, she has often heard from her father of 
Geraint's exploits : 

This clear child hath often heard me praise 
Your feats of arms, and often when I paused 
Hath ask'd again, and ever loved to hear. 

What more probable than that Enid, whose only suitors 
hitherto had been the drunken Limours and the arrogant 
Edyrn, should fall in love with the paragon of chivalry, 
Geraint ? 

Obviously Geraint and Enid move in a different atmosphere 
from their counterparts in the tale. They are idealized figures 
of romance and embody the Tennysonian ethical code. The 
process of idealization may be illustrated from the incident of 
the dwarf. In the original Geraint is on the point of slaying 
the dwarf, but refrains because his vengeance would still 
remain unsatisfied and also because the knight would imme- 
diately kill him in his defenceless state. All ignoble or even 
practical calculations are far from Tennyson's hero. He 
controls himself, such is 

his exceeding manfuluess 
And pure nobility of temperament, 
Wroth to be wroth at such a worm. 


It is the lofty nobility of Geraint's nature which causes the 
misunderstanding ^between him and Enid. He is always 
haunted by the fear that her intimacy with Guinevere, an 
intimacy which he himself had originally desired and en- 
couraged, will contaminate her, and Tennyson gives him 
confirmation of his doubts in certain words uttered by Enid, 
which he overhears and misinterprets. Enid is musing arid 
reproaches herself for not telling Geraint that men slander 
him by saying that he has become effeminate and neglects 
his duties as a ruler. l O me, I fear that I am no true wife ! ' 
she says, and Geraint, waking at this moment, snatches at 
the words. Tennyson therefore makes Geraint's conduct 
more reasonable and in some measure justifiable. He is, 
moreover, careful to point out that even so, Geraint would 
not believe the worst of Enid : 

He loved and reverenced her too much 
To dream she could be guilty of foul act. 

How significant it is also that when he orders Enid to follow 
him, he brings no open accusation against her. ' I charge 
thee, ask not ', a delicacy unknown to his prototype, who 
tells Enid that, when his strength is gone, she can seek out 
him of whom she is thinking. 

Thus Tennyson's Geraint sets out with conflicting emotions, 
and the poet has attempted to show the shifting phases of 
the struggle until the reconciliation is ultimately leached, 
a gradual and subtle process of which the tale gives but the 
slightest indications. He tells us Geraint's motive for sending 
Enid to ride ahead : 

Perhaps because he loved her passionately, 
And felt that tempest brooding round his heart, 
Which, if he spoke at all, would break perforce 
Upon a head so dear in thunder. 

Even in this crisis Geraint's tenderness checks his anger. 
After the first encounter he draws a little nearer to her, and 
regret begins to moderate his rage. With mingled feelings 
he watches her trying to manage the steeds of the dead 
knights. He would like to give vent to his wrath in one 


wild outburst, but cannot bring- himself to charge her with 
the least immodesty, and so it smoulders fiercely. 

Thus tongue-tied, it made him wroth the more 
That she could speak whom his own ear had heard 
Call herself false : and suffering thus he made 
Minutes an age. 

Just before the second combat lie cannot refrain from dropping 
a hint of his suspicion : ' V 1 fall, cleave to the better man ', 
but after it is over he draws still closer to her. 1 In the 
episode of the mowers' dinner his latent affection is revealed. 
The tale makes the boy offer it of his own accord, but in 
Tennyson it is Geraint, who. observing the pallor of Enid and 
feeling distress at her fainting condition, begs the youth to 
let her eat. His first thought is of her in spite of his own 
gnawing hunger, which Tennyson is careful to emphasize. 

Meanwhile we have not been left in ignorance of Enid's 
emotions. Stupefied at first, and wondering what her fault- 
can be, she prays for Geraint's safety, starting at the whistle 
of the plover and trembling at the thought of an ambush. 
Though she respects his wishes, when danger threatens, with 
' timid firmness ' she disregards them and speaks. During the 
combats she suffers agonies of fear on Geraint's account. In 
the second she stands aside, not daring to watch, 

only breathe 
Short fits of prayer, at every stroke a breath. 

At times she falls into reverie, thinking of the past and in 
spite of Geraint's inexplicable behaviour, her love is unabated. 
In their room at night she bends tenderly over him, listening 
to his low and equal breathing and rejoicing that he is so far 
unscathed. Tennyson stresses her devotion by his description 
of her exhaustion and care-filled sleep : 

1 In the tale only after tlie third combat with robbers, omitted by- 
Tennyson, is Geraint made to feel remorse. ' It grieved him as much as 
his wrath would permit, to see a maiden so illustrious as she having so 
much trouble with the care of the horses.' Still it does not prevent him 
from making her eit up all night to watch the horses while he sleeps. 



By that cfcy's grief and travel, evermore 
Seem'd catching at a rootless thorn, and then 
Went slipping down horrible precipices, 
And strongly striking out her limbs awoke. 

Her gentle manner and low, harmonious voice recall Cordelia 
in the concluding scenes of King Lear. Ever vigilant, she 
glides about at night ' among the heavy breathings of the 
house ' like a ' household spirit '. 

When the journey is resumed, though Geraint is sullen and 
suspicious, he does not repel Enid arid rides much nearer to 
her than the day before. A new hope springs up in her 
heart, but the reconciliation is not yet. 


Waving an angry hand as who should say 
4 Ye watch me ', sadden'd all her heart again. 

And after the defeat of Limours he cruelly asks if they 
should strip her lover and if her palfrey would have the 
heart to bear the dead man's armour. Here for the first 
time Geraint resembles his medieval prototype. 

However, the climax in the relations of Geraint and Enid 
is fast approaching. When Geraint is wounded by Limours 
and suddenly reels from his saddle, Enid shows her strength 
of mind. Without faltering she undoes his armour and binds 
up his wound, and only then does she burst into tears. When 
they are taken to the h'all of Doorm, Enid sits by Geraint 
chafing his pale hands, calling to him, her warm tears falling 
on his face. Slowly he revives, but feigns death to test her 
to the uttermost and enjoy the knowledge that it is for him 
she weeps. It was perhaps partly for the sake of this scene 
that Tennyson, altering the tale, sent Doorm on a foray. The 
fact that the reader knows Geraint to be awake and listening, 
when Doorm afterwards bullies Enid, lends to the poem 
a dramatic tension lacking in the tale. After the sudden 
death of Doorm, Geraint makes an ample apology to Enid. 
He has done her wrong, but henceforth is hers ; as a penance 
he will not ask what she meant by saying that she was no 


true wife, but will die rather than doubt. And so the chivalrous 
nature which Tennyson set out to depict, after being obscured 
for a while, shines forth once more. Enid is too deeply 
moved for words, but her feelings are described at the supreme 
moment of reconciliation : 

And never yet, since high in Paradise 
O'er the four rivers the first roses blew, 
Came purer pleasure unto mortal kind 
Than lived thro' her, who in that perilous hour 
Put hand to hand beneath her husband's heart, 
And felt him hers again. She did not weep, 
But o'er her meek eyes came a happy mist 
Like that which kept the heart of Eden green 
Before the useful trouble of the rain. 

Just as Tennyson is far more concerned with the psychology 
of his characters than is the tale, so he bestows more pains 
upon vivid description. The sketches of the town and the 
ruined castle in The Marriage of Geraint owe nothing to the 
tale. At every turn, whether it be the description of the din 
made by the armourers or of some combat, one observes 
picturesque details which Tennyson has added and which 
invest the story with a new quality. Thus Geraint and Enid 

climb'd upon a fair and even ridge 
And show'd themselves against the sky, and sank. 

Geraint reaches the town, ' down the long street riding 
wearily ', and afterwards k o'er a mount of newly- fallen stones ' 
he enters ' the dusky-rafter'd many-cobweb'd hall ' of Yniol. 
And when Geraint and Enid set forth from their palace, they 
pass ' gray swamps and pools, waste places of the hern '. A 
few passages from the tale and the poem, if we put them side 
by side, will show how much more vivid Tennyson can be. 

The tale : 

They saw four armed horsemen come forth from the forest. 
The poem : 

Enid was aware of three tall knights 
On horseback, wholly arm'd, behind a rock 
In shadow, waiting for them. 


The tale : 

A gtfoup of thickly tangled copse-wood. 
The poem : 

In the first shallow shade of a deep wood. 
Before a gloom of stubborn-shafted oaks. 

The tale : 

They came to an open country, with meadows on one hand, 
and mowers mowing the meadows. 

The poem : 

Issuing under open heavens beheld 
A little town with towers, upon a rock, 
And close beneath, a meadow gemlike chased 
In the brown wild, and mowers mowing in it. 

Such little pictures, which seem to come straight from some 
old illuminated manuscript, Tennyson delighted in, and often, 
as here, they are elaborated from a mere hint in the original. 
Not less frequently they spring entirely from his own imagina- 
tion, as when we read how Geraint 


The lusty mowers labouring dinneiiess, 
And watch'd the sun blaze on the turning scythe, 
And after nodded sleepily in the heat. 

Tennyson further enhances the poetic quality of his narra- 
tive by numerous similes which lend a splendour unknown 
to the workaday prose of the tale. Most of them are derived 
from Tennyson's close observation of Nature, and the reader 
is continually struck by their appropriateness. Geraint in 
his anger ' smiles like a stormy sunlight ' ; he glances at Enid 
'as careful robins eye the delver's toil'; in his festive array 
he rides 'glancing like a dragon-fly ' ; the muscles on his arm 
slope ' as slopes a wild brook o'er a little stone, running too 
vehemently to break upon it ' ; his hard message to Enid falls 
1 like flaws in summer laying lusty corn ' ; and Enid struck by 
Doorm's unknightly hand, utters ' a sharp and bitter cry, As 
of a wild thing taken in the trap, Which sees the trapper 
coming thro' the wood '. Edyrn on his first arrival at the 


court of Arthur is ' as sullen as a beast new-caged ', the lance 
of Geraint's foe splinters ' like an icicle ', and the armourers 
at work make a noise 

As of a broad brook o'er a shingly bed 
Brawling, or like a clamour of the rooks 
At distance, ere they settle for the night. 

Very effective is the simile which compares the panic- 
stricken flight of Geraint 's enemies to that of a shoal of fish, 
darting among the shallows, as soon as a hand is raised 
against the sun. Equally striking is the way in which the 
overthrow of another opponent is narrated : 

As he that tells the tale 
Saw once a great piece of a promontory 
That had a sapling growing on it, slide 
From the long shore-cliff's windy walls to the beach, 
And there lie still, and yet the sapling grew ; 
So lay the man transfixt. 

Two other similes, still more elaborate, may be mentioned, 
on which Tennyson has lavished all his wealth of melody and 
magic suggestion. The first describes the dress which Doorm 
ofl'ers Enid : 

A splendid silk of foreign loom, 
Where like a shoaling sea the lovely blue 
Play'd into green, and thicker down the front 
With jewels than the sward with drops of dew. 
When all night long a cloud clings to the hill, 
And with the dawn ascending lets the day 
Strike where it clung ; so thickly shone the gems. 

The other occurs in the account of how Geraint, approaching 
the ruined hall of Yiiiol, hears the song of the invisible Enid : 

As the sweet voice of a bird, 
Heard by the lander in a lonely isle, 
' Moves him to think what kind of bird it is 
That sings so delicately clear, and make 
Conjecture of the plumage and the form ; 
So the sweet voice of Enid moved Geraint ; 
And made him like a man abroad at morn 
When first the liquid note beloved of men 
G 2 


Comes flying over many a windy wave 

To Britain^ and in April suddenly 

Breaks from a coppice gemm'd with green and red, 

And lie suspends his converse with a friend, 

Or it may be the labour of his hands, 

To think or say * There is the nightingale '. 

In many respects Tennyson's poem is undoubtedly superior 
to the tale in the Mabinogion. He has knitted the story more 
closely together, and by the omission of irrelevant details, 
particularly about ceremonies and genealogies, he has made 
the structure of the poem clearer. With this greater lucidity 
of outline there goes a more even flow of the narrative. 
Tennyson's Enid is also distinctive in that it is a study of 
character rather than a tale of adventure ; the personages are 
more like human beings and less like the erratic, unaccount- 
able creations of a fairy-tale. The poem likewise displays 
more skill than the original by revealing character, not only 
directly, but also through environment, material and human. 
Moreover, Tennyson's characters have an ethical value, a 
wider significance than those of the tale, and the poem is 
altogether more varied, vivid, dramatic, and radiant with 
poetic beauty. And yet the transformation is not all gain. 
There is an artless, unsophisticated charm about the tale, 
which of necessity evaporates in the more subtle and resplen- 
dent world of Tennyson. Nor does the tale know anything 
of the sentimentality to which at times Tennyson draws 
dangerously near. However, the feeling which predominates 
after a comparison of Enid with the Welsh original is that 
of admiration for so consummate an artist. 

Though Tennyson's familiarity with the Mabinogion was 
of incomparably greater importance to him than his know- 
ledge of other Welsh literature, one cannot fail to note his 
obligations to Llywarch Hn and the Triads. It was the 
reading of Lly warch's famous lament over the fallen Geraint 
that determined the way in which Tennyson ended his 
Enid. The tale in the Mabinogion closes with a picture of 
Geraint's prosperous reign, during which his ' warlike fame 
and splendour lasted with renown and honour '. But Tenny- 


son, bearing in mind Llywarch's elegy upon Geraint after the 
great struggle at Llongborth, describes how he 


Against the heathen of the Northern Sea 
In battle. 

As for the Triads^ there are signs in various poems that 
Tennyson knew something of these singular and characteristic 
productions of Welsh literature. One of them is to be found 
in Tlie Marriage of Geraint, where Enid's mother, admiring 
the beauty of her daughter, declares her 

Sweeter than the bride of Cassivelaun, 
Flur, for whose love the Roman Caesar first 
Invaded Britain, 

and she proceeds to contrast the repulse of the invading 
Caesar with the feeling of welcome that she entertains 
towards the new conqueror, Geraint, who is to carry off Enid. 
In this passage Tennyson diverges from the genuine Welsh 
tradition, which tells that the beautiful Flur was taken 
captive by Mwrchan, a Gaulish prince in alliance with Caesar, 
to whom he intended to present his prize. In his anger 
Caswallawn, as Cassivelaun was called in Welsh, led an army 
of sixty-one thousand men against Julius Caesar, which did 
not return with its leader, and hence was known as one of the 
three emigrant hosts of Britain. It was possibly in order to 
win a parallel to the story of Geraint and Enid that Tenny- 
son assigned to Julius Caesar and Flur a relation somewhat 
different from that given in Welsh legend. 1 

Another reference to the Triads occurs in Gareth and 
Lynette, where Merlin asks : 

Know ye not then the Riddling of the Bards : 
1 Confusion, and illusion, and relation, 
Elusion, and occasion, and evasion ' ? 

By the riddling of the bards is meant the Triads, which 

1 Exactly where he found this legend we do not know but conceivably 
in Lady Guest's notes to ' Branwen the Daughter of Llyr ' in her transla- 
tion of the Mabinogion (1849, vol. iii, pp. 139-40), where reference is 
made to the Triads from which it sprang. 


Tennyson in The Coming of Arthur calls ' the riddling 
triplets of old time '. It is in this connexion that Merlin 
utters three obscure stanzas, ending with the well-known line : 

From the great deep to the great deep he goes. 

In a note to the collected edition of Tennyson's works we 
are given an explanation of Merlin's words. 'The truth 
appears in different guise to divers persons. The one fact is 
that man comes from the great deep and returns to it ', and, 
the note continues, ' this is an echo of the triads of the Welsh 
bards V 

There is some reason for thinking that Tennyson may have 
known the Triads which Southey quoted in the notes to his 
Madoc. 2 At any rate both poets were familiar with another 
tradition, current among the old Welsh bards, namely, that 
every ninth wave is greater than those going before it. 
Tennyson makes use of it in the magnificent passage which 
relates the coming of Arthur. Bleys and Merlin his disciple, 

1 The triad from which Tennyson evolved his memorable line runs 
thus : * Animated Beings have three states of Existence, that of Inchoa- 
tion in the Great Deep or Lowest Point of Existence ; that of Liberty in 
the State of Humanity ; and that of Love, which is happiness in Heaven \ 
Attention is drawn to this by Professor O. L. Jiriczek (Analia, Beiblati, 
1926, p. 120), who also points out another triad which, although Tenny- 
son does not mention it, would surely appeal to him in his symbolical 
interpretation of the Arthurian legend. It runs thus : * There are three 
necessary occasions of Indication : to collect the materials and pro- 
perties of every nature ; to collect the knowledge of every thing ; and 
to collect power towards subduing the Adverse and Devastative, and for 
the divestation of Evil } . 

2 Professor Jiriczek suggests this and one may regard it as probable. 
It is perhaps worth noting that Edward Williams, the source of Sou they 's 
information about the Triads, in his Poems Lyric and Pastoral (London, 
1794), vol. ii, quotes that relating to the three states of existence, but 
whereas he uses the word ' felicity *, * happiness ' is used by Southey and 
also by Rowe in the commentary which Tennyson authorized. This 
might of course be a mere coincidence, but on the other hand Tennyson's 
knowledge of the tradition of the ninth wave, a tradition mentioned in 
the notes to Madoc and apparently derived by Southey from the Welsh 
scholars Edward Williams and William Owen Pughe, does seem to 
indicate that Tennyson had profited by the reading of Madoc. 


leaving the castle of Tintagil, where Uther has just passed 
away moaning for an heir, descend through the inky darkness 
towards the shore. As they gaze seawards they catch a 
glimpse of a ship like a winged dragon, all bright with 
shining figures : 

And then the two 

Dropt to the cove, and watch'd the great sea fall, 

Wave after wave, each mightier than the last, 

Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep 

And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged 

Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame ; 

And down the wave and in the flame was borne 

A naked babe, and rode to Merlin's feet, 

Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried, i The King ! * 




THE Ancrene Wisse has already developed a ' literature ', 
and it is very possible that nothing I can say about it will 
be either new or illuminating to the industrious or leisured 
that have kept up with it. I have not. But my interest in 
this document is linguistic, and unless I am mistaken, a purely 
linguistic aspect of the problem will bear renewed attention, 
or repetition. I even believe that it may be of value to 
set forth a line of argument that is based on assertions of 
which the proper proof (or retractation) must wait for a later 

I start with the conviction that very few Middle English 
texts represent in detail the real language (in accidence, 
phonology, often even in choice of spellings) of any one time 
or place or person. It is not to be expected that they should, 
in a period of manuscript reproduction and linguistic decentrali- 
zation ; and most of them in fact do not. Their ' language ' 
is, in varying degrees, the product of their textual history, and 
cannot be fully explained, sometimes cannot be understood at 
all, by reference to geography. 

If this is not universally agreed, it cannot here be fully 
argued. At least it will be allowed, whether by those who 
prefer to find a place on the map for each variety of ' textual ' 
English, or those that would find subtle phonetic significance in 
all the vagaries of careless texts, that there is a distinction 
between a pure and consistent form of language and a con- 
fused one, and that the distinction is important, however 
explained. This will still leave some force in rny argument. 

The mixed nonce-language produced by copying is some- 
thing different, and something to a considerable extent dis- 
tinguishable by analysis from the variations, the exceptional 
forms requiring special explanation, that appear in, say, the 
language of Orm or Dan Michel where we may assume that 


we have for practical purposes a representation of two kinds 
of * geographical * English. For one thing these exceptions 
are mainly exceptions only to the general character of the 
language and the normal lines of its descent from older forms, 
not exceptions to the writer's usage. He uses them invariably, 
or in specific cases, or in circumstances capable of reasonable 
explanation. In fact they are comparable to the observed 
variations in the living speech of actual persons and places. 

' Nonce-language ' can, of course, be produced in two different 
ways. By partial substitution of a dialect or spelling-system 
more familiar than that of the copy ; by unsuccessful assimila- 
tion of a natural speech to a written ' standard ', more or less 
definite. But to distinguish these is probably not, at any 
rate in early Middle English, of linguistic importance. The 
result of both is an ' accidental ' form of language, occurring 
in all its details only in one text, whose evidence thus requires 
careful handling if it is to be used in the history of spoken 
English. Attempted ' standardization ' is not likely to concern 
a student of the thirteenth century ; he is more likely to be 
faced with the alteration of the unfamiliar. 1 

But texts such as the Ormulum or the Ayenbitc of Inwit, 
where all may believe in the language as genuine and more 
or less ' geographical ', are rare. We have not enough of them 
for the separating out of the different main types that are 

1 In the thirteenth century a westernizing tendency has been discerned, 
I think with probability. It does not, of course, amount to the existence 
of a West Midland literary standard. But many of the problems of 
thirteenth-century texts (e. g. The Owl and Nightingale] would become 
more intelligible on the assumption, natnial enough a priori, that the 
habit of using or writing down English with any definitely literary pur- 
pose was at first preserved in the West mainly, and connected with the 
lingering there of links with the past (in alliteration and all that 
implies, in spelling, and in an archaic and relatively undisturbed form of 
language) ; that scribes able to handle M.E. familiarly were more often 
trained in the West and natively or otherwise familiar with western 
English. Consideration of Ancrene Wisse, at any rate, strengthens the 
impression, if my argument is sound, of the existence in the west of a 
centre where English was at once more alive, and more traditional and 
organized as a written form, than anywhere else. 


ingredients in cases of confusion. All the more reason for 
underlining the' names of those that we have. 

There is an English older than Dan Michel's arid richer, as 
regular in spelling as Grin's but less queer ; one that has 
preserved something of its former cultivation. It is not 
a language long relegated to the ' uplands ' struggling once 
more for expression in apologetic emulation of its betters or 
out of compassion for the lewd, but rather one that has never 
fallen back into k lewdness ', and has contrived in troublous 
times to maintain the air of a gentleman, if a country gentle- 
man. It has traditions and some acquaintance with books and 
the pen, but it is also in close touch with a good living 
speech a soil somewhere in England. 

This is the language first and foremost of the Corpus 
Christi MS. of the Ancrene Wisse, the Ancrene Wixne proper. 
This manuscript is of course admitted to be a good text 
(the clerical errors in it are astonishingly few) ; and it is 
well known to be in a fair hand of excellent regularity and 
precision. It is even allowed to stand nearer to the original 
than, say, the Cotton Nero MS. But I suggest that this is not 
nearly strong enough. Whatever the textual history of the 
Ancrene Wisse may be. or the merits and interest of its matter, 
this text has an even more unusual claim to attention. Its 
language is self -consistent and unadulterated. It is a unity. 
It is either a faithful transcript of some actual dialect 
of nearly unmixed descent, or a ' standard ' language based 
on one. 

But this, if true, possesses an interest for others than the 
linguistic analyst. Such a fact must have a bearing on the 
questions where and when, and so even on the more academic 
questions by and for whom, that are put concerning the 
writing of the Kule. If it is true, we may argue thus : 

(i) A is written in a language (A) that is at once self- 
consistent and markedly individual. It stands out among 
Middle English texts, not excluding the Ayenbite or the 
Ormulum, by reason of the regularity of its phonology and 
its accidence. It represents, therefore, a form of English 
whose development from an antecedent Old English type 


was relatively little disturbed. Relative isolation and more 
or less definite natural boundaries are suggested by this. 

(ii) This language is expressed in a very consistent and 
in some ways very individual spelling. 

(iii) These considerations taken together suggest a simple 
textual history, or at least a peculiarly fortunate one. 1 The 
normal result of varied copying in such a period as the 
Middle English one would be to destroy the consistency of 
language and spelling, unless the scribe or scribes used 
naturally the same language a* that of their originals. At 
any rate this ' normal result ' is admittedly present in all 
the other versions of the Ancrene Wisse. All of these have 
in fact the appearance of a blending with the language (A) 
of ingredients belonging to different times and places. 
The (A) element is their common linguistic element. 2 This 
throws into still stronger relief the absence of such blending 
in A. 

Here I think we have to consider a further point. It is 
not an entirely new one, though, unless I am mistaken, its 
force is not usually appreciated. This language (A) is identical, 
even down to minute and therefore significant details, with 
the language of MS. Bodley 34, that is, of the versions there 
contained of the legends of Juliette, Katcriue, Margarete, and 
of the homilies Saivles Warde and Uali Meidhad. This is the 
so-called ' Katherinc group '. The ' Had Meidhad group ' 
would have been a fitter title. I will call it here B ; its 
language (B). 

A connexion between (A) and (B) is of course recognized. 
Hall, for instance, said that * M S. B bears a close resemblance 
in all dialectal criteria to MS. A of the A ncrene Wisse ', though 
he declared its ' Anglian peculiarities are somewhat more 
pronounced ' (a judgement I do not understand). 3 A vague 
recognition of the similarity is hidden away in pages 7 

1 There is no analysable difference that I can discover between those 
parts of A which are absent from other versions, or differ from them, 
and the common mass. The whole is in language (A). 

2 This is not universally agreed. 

3 E. M. E., ii, p. 503. 


ingredients in cases of confusion. All the more reason for 
underlining the names of those that we have. 

There is an English older than Dan Michel's and richer, as 
regular in spelling as Orm's but less queer ; one that has 
preserved something of its former cultivation. It is not 
a language long relegated to the 'uplands' struggling once 
more for expression in apologetic emulation of its betters or 
out of compassion for the lewd, but rather one that has never 
fallen back into ' lewdness '", and has contrived in troublous 
times to maintain the air of a gentleman, if a country gentle- 
man. 1 1 has traditions and some acquaintance with books and 
the pen, but it is also in close touch with a good living 
speech a soil somewhere in England. 

This is the language first and foremost of the Corpus 
Christi MS. of the A tccrene Wisse, the Ancrene Wisse proper. 
This manuscript is of course admitted to be a good text 
(the clerical errors in it are astonishingly few) ; and it is 
well known to be in a fair hand of excellent regularity and 
precision. It is even allowed to stand nearer to the original 
than, say, the Cotton Nero MS. But I suggest that this is not 
nearly strong enough. Whatever the textual history of the 
Ancrene Wisse maybe, or the merits and interest of its matter, 
this text has an even more unusual claim to attention. Its 
language is self-consistent and unadulterated. It is a unity. 
It is either a faithful transcript of some actual dialect 
of nearly unmixed descent, or a ' standard ' language based 
on one. 

But this, if true, possesses an interest for others than the 
linguistic analyst. Such a fact must have a bearing on the 
questions where and when, and so even on the more academic 
questions by and for whom, that are put concerning the 
writing of the Rule. If it is true, we may argue thus : 

(i) A is written in a language (A) that is at once self- 
consistent and markedly individual. It stands out among 
Middle English texts, not excluding the Ayenbite or the 
Ormulum, by reason of the regularity of its phonology and 
its accidence. It represents, therefore, a form of English 
whose development from an antecedent Old English type 


was relatively little disturbed. Relative isolation and more 
or less definite natural boundaries are suggested by this. 

(ii) This language is expressed in a very consistent and 
in some ways very individual spelling. 

(iii) These considerations taken together suggest a simple 
textual history, or at least a peculiarly fortunate one. 1 The 
normal result of varied copying in such a period as the 
Middle English one would be to destroy the consistency of 
language and spelling, unless the scribe or scribes used 
witur<(lly the S(nne language as tht of their originals. At 
any rate this ' normal result ' is admittedly present in all 
the other versions of the Aucrene Wisse. All of these have 
in fact the appearance of a blending with the language (A) 
of ingredients belonging to different times and places. 
The (A) element is their common linguistic element. 2 This 
throws into still stronger relief the absence of such blending 
in A. 

Here I think we have to consider a further point. It is 
not an entirely new one, though, unless I am mistaken, its 
force is not usually appreciated. This language (A ) is identical, 
even down to minute and therefore significant details, with 
the language of MS. Bodley 34, that is, of the versions there 
contained of the legends of Julieue, Kaferine, Margarete, and 
of the homilies Suwles Warde and Uali Meiifhad. This is the 
so-called ' Katherine group '. The ' JIa/i Meifthad group ' 
would have been a fitter title. I will call it here B ; its 
language (B). 

A connexion between (A) and (B) is of course recognized. 
Hall, for instance, said that * MS. B bears a close resemblance 
in all dialectal criteria to MS. A of the Ancrene Wisse ', though 
he declared its ' Anglian peculiarities are somewhat more 
pronounced* (a judgement I do not understand). 3 A vague 
recognition of the similarity is hidden away in pages 7 

1 There is no analysable difference that I can discover between those 
parts of A which are absent from other versions, or differ from them, 
and the common mass. The whole is in language (A). 

2 This is not universally agreed. 

3 E. M. E., ii, p. 503. 


and 8 of Jordan's M.E. Grammatilc. But the case is far more 
remarkable and important. At the very least we have here 
a closeness of relationship between the language and the 
spelling of two distinct MSS. and hands that is astonishing, 
if not (as I believe) unique. I will even suggest here that 
the unity of (A) and (B) will bear minute analysis, and leave 
a residuum of discrepancy which, in view of the quite different 
textual history and value of B, is negligible. The two manu- 
scripts are in fact in one language and spelling (A B). And this 
is found, as far as I am aware, nowhere else. That is, though 
it may be even a preponderating element in other texts, 
especially other versions of the same matter, it is not else- 
where found in isolation ; nowhere else is it present in so 
consistent and regular a form, and in all its details of grammar 
and spelling. 

The nearest approach that I know of is to be found in the 
R versions l of B's material (all the above named except Hali 
Meidhad). Nearly identical ('substantially the same* was 
Hall's judgement) as R's language appears at first sight with 
(AB), it is not, especially in spelling, actually the same. Its 
closeness to B, which is a copy of the same matter, cannot be 
compared with the linguistic relationship of B to A, which are 
totally distinct in matter. Its very closeness to B can be made 
to illustrate the peculiar relationship of B to A. If one is 
thoroughly familiar with the idiosyncrasies of A, one may then 
look at, say, Einenkel's text of St. Katkerine (which is chiefly 
based on R) and mark, without reference to the apparatus, the 
majority of the cases in which the printed text diverges in 
forms or spellings from B, and probably predict what the 
apparatus will show the B forms to be. That is, language (B) 
may be learned through (A), or vice versa. This is my own 

I suggest that this sort of thing is not usual in Middle 
English, and requires special consideration. We have two 
scribes that use a language and spelling that are nearly as 
indistinguishable as that of two modern printed books. Since 
the conditions in Middle English were quite different to those 
J MS. B. Mus. Royal 17 A 27. 


of the present, it is a reasonable further step to suppose that 
A and B are very closely connected both in time and place. 
The consistency and individuality of the spelling, since it is 
shared by two hands of very different quality, is not that of 
an Orm, of an isolated methodist, but suggests obedience to 
some school or authority. 

There have been, of course, at different times various 
localizations and datings, vague or specific, of the originals 
of the works contained in A and B. They have been assigned 
to places as widely sundered as Dorset, Lichfield, and the 
' Northern border of the (East) Midlands '. But, if 1 am right, 
the A and B versions are not to be separated at all. 

How much further one would go after this depends on 
one's views of transmission in the Middle English period. At 
any rate it is clear that, if any of the parts of A or pieces in 
B were not originally composed in this dialect, in the time 
and place to which the manuscripts belong, they were then 
and there not only copied but accurately translated so 
accurately that there is practically no trace left of the 
process. 1 

I suggest, then, that the very nature of the language (AB) 
requires us in all probability to suppose, either : 
(i) that A or B or both are originals. 
This can only be decided on other grounds ; in the case 
of B, at any rate, no claim for originality could be made. 

or (ii) that A or B or both are in whole or part accurate 
translations, a phenomenon that requires special explana- 

or (iii) that the vanished originals of A and B were in 
this same language (AB), and so belonged to practically 
the same period and place as the copies we have (unless 
alie have transcribed them with minute linguistic fidelity). 

1 No linguistic trace, that is. Textual considerations are not here 
concerned. B may offer an indifferent text, and evidence that it is more 
or less removed in this respect from its originals, but it does not offer 
an indifferent language. This is either that of the originals or there has 
been accurate translation the unlikelihood of which is only increased 
by the assumption of an inaccurate text. 


In the case of A, then, either (i) A is the original Ancrene 
Wisse (here only a 'Supposition for the sake of argument) ; or 
(ii) A is a linguistically skilful translation of some version of 
it, which may contain additions and alterations due to the 
actual translator ; or (iii) the original A ncrene Wisse was in 
language (AB), and therefore belonged to nearly the same 
time and place as A, and any intermediate stages there may 
have been. If the matter peculiar to A is unoriginal, it 
belongs at least to very nearly the same time and place as 
the original, and possesses so much the more authority. It 
may even constitute a second edition within the knowledge 
of the author. 

In the case of B we have not probably to deal either with 
an original or with an original translation, but with a copy 
of pieces that were severally either originally composed in 
language (AB), or translated into it at some previous time 
not far removed from the making of B, and in the place to 
which B belongs. 

But we can dismiss some of these suppositions as highly 
improbable, if not incredible. There is very little evidence, 
I think, in Middle English of accurate transcription of 
unfamiliar dialect. Nor is it to be expected. It is notoriously 
easy to adulterate a closely related and generally intelligible 
form of the same language (dialectal or archaic), even when 
the intention is consciously the reverse. Yet scribes, save 
in exceptional circumstances (e. g. forgery) , were concerned 
with matter, not linguistic" detail. If they were not merely 
inattentive, in which case familiar forms would creep in 
unnoticed, they were more likely deliberately to substitute 
the familiar than to preserve the unusual. In the absence 
of a standard they must often have failed even to observe, 
let alone to consider important, many orthographic and 
linguistic details that our analysis regards as fundamental. 
It needs constant attention to each word if a piece of text 
that differs from the copyist's own language or spelling 
habits is to be preserved unadulterated. This is tested 
easily enough by copying, say, either a piece of earlier modern 
English, or an Old Norse MS. In both cases the divergences 


between the copy and the copyist's habits have little or no 
bearing on meaning and matter, and some special motive is 
required if they are to be retained consistently. 

On the other hand, for consistent and accurate translation 
of one M.E. dialect into another a knowledge in detail is 
demanded of both dialects, as well as a recognition that they 
are distinct forms of language a philological state of mind, 
rather than a scribal. And there is still required a special 
motive for taking the necessary trouble. What motive or 
special circumstance can be suggested that will make the 
supposition of ' accurate translation ' in any way credible 
for A and ]>? Such translation can only be explained if 
the form of language substituted was held to have some 
special value, was in fact somewhere a c standard ' that it 
was worth considerable pains to maintain. This is possible, 
if not very probable, in the abstract. But in the case, at any 
rate, of B it is hardly worth considering. B is not the text 
that would be produced by a person capable of such pains. 
And if we examine the other versions of B, I submit that it 
is language (AB) that lies behind each of them, not some 
other type from which B or its immediate antecedents were 
' translated '. 

1 also submit, though the case is far more intricate and 
totally different conclusions have been reached, that the same 
is true of A ; that the least forced explanation of the 
linguistic state of the other versions of the Ancrene Wisse is 
that behind them, at different removes, lies an original in 
language (AB). 

Yet even if this is not to be demonstrated or agreed, I sug- 
gest that the supposition of ' translation ', as the explanation 
of the purity of the language (AB) in A and B, remains far 
less probable or credible than the belief that the originals of 
A and B were in the same language and spelling (AB), and 
therefore belonged to much the same time and place. It 
is a belief which is at least supported by the connexion 
that is thus established between the nature of the language 
and spelling of these texts on the one hand, and their literary 
and stylistic quality on the other. Both point to a place where 


native tradition was not wholly confused or broken ; both 
point to a centre w*here the native language was not unfamiliar 
with the pen; it is not surprising it* they both point to the 
same place. 

I believe then that, if what is here asserted concerning the 
character and relations of languages (A) and (B) is true (my 
present conviction), it is far and away the most probable 
deduction that A and B are substantially in the very language 
of the original works, and belong to the same place and at 
least approximately the same time as those works and their 
authors (or author). To a linguist they are, in other words, 
virtually originals. 

There are two possible modifications of this deduction that 
have not yet been dealt with : the relations of the linguistic 
date of (AB) to the palaeographic dates of A and B ; arid the 
question of originals not in Middle English at all. 

It might, for instance, be convenient to some theory of 
authorship to suppose that the originals of A and B were 
written considerably earlier than the date assignable on 
palaeographic grounds (or internal evidence) to the manu- 

The linguistic comment on any such theory would, to my 
mind, be this. There is little trace in (AB) of mixture of 
forms of periods sufficiently separate in time to differ in 
orthographic or linguistic usage. 1 But the scribe who resists 
successfully the tendency to modernize, not in a legal instru- 
ment but in a work intended precisely for the instruction of 
his contemporaries, is incredible. It is highly improbable 
therefore that (AB) is a language alread}' archaic or even 
old-fashioned when either A or B were made. In that case 
only the supposition remains that the modernization has been 
thorough, accurate, and deliberate. But this is only a special 
case of the ' translation ' dealt with above. The period of 
time intervening, therefore, between the originals and the 
copies A, B, is not likely to have been one linguistically 
measurable. What sort of limit in years this would involve 

1 Occasional uses of for g, of s for r, might be instanced, but do not 
prove much. 


round about A.TX 1200 is less easy to say; and we have to 
consider in this case the greater resistance to change of a 
language that was probably (as suggested above) both 
relatively isolated and cultivated. None the less I think that 
we should not on linguistic grounds willingly concede more 
than a decade or two ; and on this point 1 shall try to bring 
forward a sample of linguistic evidence (below). 

Further it might be suggested, and has been, and still is, 
that the originals of A and B were not English at all, but 
French or Latin. The case of B is not debated. Some of 
the pieces (e. g. Sawles Warde) are known to be translations, 
or rather free handlings, of Latin sources. But the treatment 
observed is so free as to rob it of almost all linguistic 
interest; it is of a kind that produces language little if 
anything inferior to that of free composition, and it is 
almost equally good evidence of the literary cultivation 
of the English medium ; it is not novice translation-prose 
at all. 

It is quite possible that where the English originals of B 
were so produced A also might have been translated, though 
A appears to rise even higher above the suspicion of being 
translation-prose. But the proof, one way or the other, is 
outside the scope of linguistic analysis. This debate belongs 
to a different field. 1 

1 It might, however, be observed that certain odd genders occur in 
both A and B. dead is, for instance, occasionally feminine in A and B. 
Where the genders of nouns are discernible and yet different from those 
of O.E. they follow Latin or French. So I believe, but I have not made 
full collections on this point. It might be worth while, if it has not 
already been done. This might be taken as an indication of translation. 
Yet it is difficult to believe that such competent translation would in fact 
make such errors. If ascribable to the influence of French or Latin at 
all, such confusion of genders is more likely to be the reflection of the 
general influence of a knowledge of these languages upon this culti- 
vated sort of English. English of this period was more open to attack 
in the accidence of nouns and adjectives than anywhere else. In other 
words, we may have here a genuine minor feature of the language 
(AB) such as might appear in talking an actual example of one of the 
stages in the history of the loss of gender of which historical grammars 


Proof or supposition of a foreign original still requires us 
in tracing the history of the English version to follow the 
same line of argument from the nature of the language (AB) 
as that already laboured. The final conclusion that I suggest 
is that the (English) originals of these works were in 
language (AB), they both belonged to nearly the same time, 
one not far removed from that of the actual manuscripts A 
and B ; and they both belonged to the same (small) area, the 
area where manuscripts A and B and their language (AB) 
were at home. 

The localization or dating of either the manuscripts, or the 
language, of A and B is then of much greater importance to 
the general problem of the Anvrene Wisse than has been 

I am not equipped, nor have I studied the question of this 
localization sufficiently, to venture an opinion. It is none the 
less, to say no more, highly suggestive that A alone of the 
manuscripts of Ancre/ne Wisse is definitely connected with 
Herefordshire, and that the same is true of B. It IR certainly 
odd that two manuscripts, which at the very least have every 
appearance of being closely connected in place of origin, 
should both have wandered to that somewhat remote county 
in the fourteenth century, if they did not originally belong 
there. Historians and others may decide whether Hereford- 
shire could offer the centre we require ; there are, at any rate, 
many linguistic considerations that are in its favour, and none 
yet to hand (so far as I am aware) that are against it. 1 There 

speak but seldom furnish instances. A specially interesting case is, 
I think, furnished by Hali Meifihad 148 ff. There flesch is referred to as 
ha * she '. This has completely misled the modern English translator, 
who writes nonsense ; and has also misled the scribe into misuse of the 
pi. form hearmift 148 for the required sg. hearmed (ha also means 
1 they'). 

1 The Scandinavian element, has, of course, been used as an argument 
against the West in general. Though we, or rather I, do not know 
enough about the distribution of words in Middle English to speak with . 
finality, where phonology does not help, I believe this to be altogether 
erroneous. Hall was led, for instance, by the Scandinavian element to 


is 'relative isolation', which endures to this day, between 
Wye and Severn, where an individual linguistic development 
might be expected to take place little disturbed, and yet show 
intelligible geographical relation to the forms of English that 
seem most nearly allied (e. g. Layamon) ; there is proximity 
to Wales a minor point, but cader occurs in Hali Meiffhad 
and Ancrene Wisse only ; there is remoteness from the East 
and from London, which may explain the preservation of 

look in the N.E. Midlands for author and originals. Yet if anything 
suggests itself to a general consideration of this element, it is that its 
connexion is nearly as close with western tradition and alliteration as 
that of the native element. 

The view of Hall and others appears to have been that the Scandi- 
navian words in A and B are a N.E. clement found in their copies, but 
alien to the language of the 'translators' who thus could only have know- 
ledge of the words from the spelling and context of a written N.E. 
original. Then what are we to think of these scholarly westerners ? Not 
content with being the most efficient dialect translators in M.E. they 
transform alien Norse words from their natural eastern shape into pre- 
cisely the form they should have had if they were ancestral in the West. 
Somewhere in Herefordshire there must have been a school of philology, 
which encouraged phonology as well as a study of genuine Norse rather 
than its corruption in eastern England. I refer, of course, to such words 
nsjftutteH, hulieji, which in the East were pronounced and written with * 
(Orm flittenn), though derived from O.N. flytia, hylia. The ending of 
hulien is also decisively against the East, see Part II. mroc might also be 
adduced. The fo-spelling is invariable, and marks out the word at once 
to the eye in (AB), since it does not conform, owing to its later adoption 
from O.N. *meuk-r, to the ' Anglian smoothing ' characteristic of the lan- 
guage (O.E. seoc is sec). How was this correct historical and phonetic 
distinction observed, if not guided by colloquial knowledge ? Orm's 
spelling meoc cannot explain it, for it is not invariable ; he also writes 
mec, mek. And there is small likelihood of any easterly text ever having 
existed that surpassed Orm in consistency, especially in the application 
of the combination eo, when we consider that in the East, if any phonetic 
distinction lingered between e and eo, it was slight and of a different kind 
from that preserved in the West. But if Norse words phonologically 
testable resist the attempt to derive them from written N.E. texts, the 
remainder will require strong evidence indeed of limited distribution 
before they can be used as an argument. A and B are rather documents 
for a history of the Scandinavian element in England, than to be ex- 
plained away so as to fit a previous view of its distribution. 

H 2 


something of old tradition and the archaism ; and there is 
the intimate relation of the vocabulary and formulas (allitera- 
tive and other) in A and B both to the westerly lyric, whose 
little world lay between Wirral and the Wye, 1 and to the 
specifically alliterative verse. 

I have not dared to apply my linguistic theory to the 
questions 'by whom' and 'for whom'. It can clearly say 
little here except indirectly and through the answers to 
' where ' and when '. ' By whom ' and ' for whom ' are senti- 
mental questions, and knowledge at any rate of the latter is 
not likely to have any importance to scholarship. Neither 
is likely to be answered with certainty by any form of re- 
search, short of miraculous luck. If one considers the throngs 
of folk in the fair field of the English centuries, busy and 
studious, learned and lewd, esteemed and infamous, that must 
have lived without leaving a shrerl of surviving evidence for 
their existence, one will hesitate before the most ingenious 
guesses of the most untiring researchers at the names and 
identities of the original Canterbury pilgrims. The * dear 
sisters' are as little likely to have left a record in this world. 
Their instructor is in more hopeful case ; yet (even in 
Herefordshire) there may have been more than one wise 
clerk who left no monument, or left a monument without 
a name. 

Linguistic analysis at any rate will not help us in a search 
for him, save in indicating the probable time and place to 
look in. Though personally I entirely agree with all that 
Hall said (E.M.E., ii. 505 f.) concerning the community of 
authorship of A and B (not his identification), and think it 
as probable as any such theory can be, 2 it must be admitted 

1 From Weye he is wisist in to Wyrhale, Johon 27. 

2 The difference in spirit between the manner and matter of A and B 
has become a commonplace, but depends on a forgetfulness of the very 
nature of an anchoress's life and the spirit that approved it (as the 
instructor must have done), and on a misunderstanding of the teaching 
and spirit of B, an exaggeration of the * humanity ' of A the practical 
adviser and of the ' inhumanity ' of B the furnisher of edifying reading. 
Flagellation, which A disapproves, is not more stern than enclosure and 


that the linguistic character of the texts does not oblige us 
to believe in a common author. Where two different scribes 
could write a common language in the same spelling, two 
different authors could conceivably have written under the 
influence of a common training, reading, and tradition. 


It was originally my intention to follow this laborious 
argument with a sample of a minute comparison of A and B. 
But this has proved impossible of satisfactory accomplish- 
ment within a very little space. To give a brief list of the 
peculiar agreements in language and spelling between the 
two texts, without recording and discussing the minor dis- 
crepancies, would also be unconvincing, though the agree- 
ment might be conceded as remarkable. 

I may briefly instance, however, one line of inquiry and 
its bearings. The most important group of words in any 
early M.E. text (if one considers date or region, or text corrup- 
tion, or is concerned with the general processes of gram- 
matical history in Middle English) is that of the verbs 
belonging to the 3rd or ' regular ' weak class, descended from 
O.E. verbs with infinitive in -ian, or conjugated on this 
model. 1 

A and B together contain some 550 of these verbs in over 
3,300 instances. Of these more than 280 are descended from 
recorded O.E. verbs ; about 150 are M.E. verbs (by chance not 
recorded in O.E., or recent formations from current nouns 
and adjectives, or words of obscure origin) ; about 20 are 
Norse, and about 100 French. A study of these 3,300 instances 
allows one to establish for AB a regular paradigm to which 

* virginity which he rigidly protects. Juliene endures brutal flagellation ; 
but that one, who finds this edifying should discourage its voluntary 
practice is no more surprising than a man who honours courage in battle 
while advising caution in ciossing the street. 

1 This I hope to expound elsewhere at greater length and with special 
reference to AB. 


only about 6 exceptions per 1,000 instances can be found 
and many of these have a significance in being consistently 
employed and being common to A and B. 1 

This regular paradigm is simply the O.E. paradigm pre- 
served in all its details, except as modified by one or two 
normal phonetic changes of universal application : namely, 
(1) the weakening of unaccented vowels to e\ (2) the change 
of i(j)e to i after a long or polysyllabic stem, while ie 
remained after a short stem, or short stem that received a 
strong secondary accent (ondswerien). The latter ' sound- 
law' is of great importance to the history of M.E. inflexion. 
The verbs studied provide between one and two thousand 
instances of its operation, and a recognition of this can be 
made of considerable service to etymology. The proportion 
of exceptions is almost negligible, and such as exist are 
usually capable of explanation. 

We have in fact a regular relation between Pollen fahfolie, 
he poled, ha polled, imper. pole, polled, subj. polie(ri), pres. p. 
fioliende] and fond in \wh foudi, he foudeft, //</ fond iff, imper. 
fonde, fondift, subj . fond i(u), pres. p. fo nd Inde] . 

This is remarkable enough, and sufficient evidence at once 
of a relatively undisturbed dialect and of a text little adul- 
terated linguistically. But its full force is best appreciated 
if one seeks to discover the same rules in other manuscripts 
of A or B. There is no space here to demonstrate this. But 
very little examination of the manuscripts is required. R 
comes best out of such a test its distinction from (AB) is not 
observable so much in this point as in other more minute 
points of phonology and spelling. The confusion of the others 
varies in degree. T is, of course, without any rules, and 
cannot even keep steady in the employment of -e$, -es, -en, 

1 For instance, schawin, to show, forms (under the influence probably 
of edeawen) the irregular imperative schaw, and pa. t. schawde. Both 
these * exceptions ' are regular in A and B there is one instance only of" 
schawede (in Sawles Warde). Compare the l consistent irregularity ' of 
the remarkable AB paradigm warpen (throw) : warpe ; pa. t. weorp ; pi. 
and subj. wurpe(n) ; pp. iwarpen. This has no exceptions in AB, and no 
consistent parallels outside. 


let alone observe a distinction between ie and i. Its scribe 
may or may not have belonged to Shropshire or other places 
where he has been placed (on linguistic evidence !), but his 
grammar belongs to no place but MS. T. The irregularity of 
the Caius MS. and of Nero can be gauged by a glance at the 
specimens in Hall's Early Middle English. 

This development could, I believe, also be made to yield 
conclusions concerning date. It is obvious that the i forms 
depend on earlier ie forms, and that a text regularly pre- 
serving ie in all verbs of this class is probably older than 
one in which ie has diverged into i and ie. How far we are 
to assume different rates of 'phonetic change (as distinct from 
changes due to grammatical analogy) in different regions in 
the Middle English period, is a difficult question. In the 
West in closely related areas a different rate of change is 

Now the change ije > i is already observable in Orm 
(laffdij) his verbal forms lokenn, &c., are not phonetic 
developments. A greater rate of change in his area may be 
conceded. But if we come west, we discover that as we 
approach the date 1200 we get not fondin/folien but 
fondlen/ pollen. This latter is substantially the state of the 
language of the longer Layamon text, and one of the points 
in which that confused document shows analysable regu- 
larity. The same is true of such ' O.E. Homilies ' as the 
Sermon for the First Sunday in Lent (O.E. Horn, i, pp. 28 ff.), 
a text which has, as a main ingredient, language related in 
some remarkable ways to AB (kimed, hlu&eliche, eskien are 

The Owl and Nightingale (C) observes much the same rules 
as AB, with a few exceptions, but it contains at least one 
specifically ' Kentish' form wnienge [= wunienge] 614. This 
curiaus form is the norm in early Kentish, where similar rules 
to those of AB can be observed. [The differences are (1) 
change of i to e before # (fandi butfandetf) ; (2) wunienge for 
AB wununge. The latter is due to regularizing the relations 
otfandi(ri),fandinge to wunien, *wuninge."\ 

An analysis of all the early M.E. texts on this basis pro- 


vides interesting results, which it is impossible to exhibit here. 
Among these are the demonstration that the most important 
cleavage in M.E. was between the areas (W. and S.) where 
the O.E. system of verbs was retained and slowly modified 
phonetically, and those where it was violently dislocated and 
remodelled before the M.E. period proper began. Orm repre- 
sents the latter. It is clear that his lokenn and poleim are 
not phonetic developments. The phonetic developments are 
seen in laffdij, and the plural adjective wurrfij (beside 
manie). By pure phonetic development we should say 
warny, groany to this day. In the Scandinavianized part of 
England the complete divergence in conjugation between 
English and Norse verbs in -ian, -ia (faudia'n, fandode : 
eggia, eggia&a: krefia, kraffta), and their relative rarity in 
Norse, had led to a general levelling, probably in late O.E. 
times, in favour of -an for all. Of this late O.E. ' lingua franca ' 
with its *lufan> *fandaii one example has, by chance, been 
preserved on the dial on Kirkdale Church (Yorks.) dating 
from about A.D. 1064. 1 

Where English remained intact, and the few Scandinavian 
verbs were fitted into the native system (mostly being 
absorbed by the fo'tudiu or pollen classes), we had, until the 
thirteenth century was well advanced, a regular development 
from O.E., which is clearly observable where the text is pure. 
The particular stage represented by AB cannot in the West, 
I suggest, be put back much before 1225, if as far. It is 
possible that English would long have halted at some such stage 
(slightly modified by complete loss of -n, perhaps, and change 
of -ith to -eth), had the cultivation of English remained in the 
West. How far this stage could be preserved even in the 
fourteenth century in a rustic and archaic dialect, Dan Michel 
shows. None the less it is clear that the stage was one of 

1 See A. R. Green, Sundials (S.P.C.K. 1926), p. 14. The inscription 
reads at the sides : Orm . gamal . | suna bohtc . scs | gregorivs rain | ster . 
^onne . bi|t wes sel . to . bro )| can . 7 fcofalan . 7 he J hit let macan newan 
from | grunde xpe . 7 scs gregori|vs . in . eadward . dagum . cng . in tosti . 
dagum . eorl. In the centre : )>is is dae-ges solmere ae [merce ?] J set ilcum 
tide . 7 hawar^S me wrohte 7 brand prs. 


delicate balance easily disturbed, and one that would certainly 
fail to be understood by any scribe or speaker not instinctively 
guided by the usage of his mother-dialect. Endless confusion 
would be certain to arise (and did arise) wherever a scribe and 
his copy differed in the matter of these verbs. The mere 
statistics of regularity in this respect in AB preclude us, 
therefore, from supposing with any probability that these 
texts are copies of originals of an older period (fondien text 
Siudfondin scribe ; or foudiit, text smdfonden scribe l ). There is 
only one (very doubtful) case of ie after a long stem in all AB. 2 
There are a very few certain cases of -e for -^, but their percent- 
age is minute, and most of them are explicable as accidental 
errors, or the occasional false analogies of speech and writing :5 : 

1 A stage fondc(n)/luuie(n) was reached, later than AB and not then 
universally, by substitution of the mendings of all other classes of verbs 
for the i-endings. The change was not phonetic, at any rate in the case 
of final -i. It led also to the generalization of luui- as the stem (later M.E. 
lovyeih sg. and pi., lovyere). Of this generalization there is no trace in 
AB. There variation ie/e is still an inflexional variation accompanied by 
clear distinctions of sense. 

2 eadmodied imper. pi. A 76/11. N reads (p. 278) makied eadmod 4' 
meokei) our heorte. This has the support of alliteration, and A might be 
an accidental error for eadmod [mak~\iei). But in that case the error 
would be significant, since T and C have eadmodiei). More probable is a 
new formation direct from M.E. eadmodi humble. This, having i as part 
of the stem, would naturally follow the conjugation of biburienipl. biburied 
(O.E. bebyrgeafi), as did French verbs of similar form chastieti, studies. 
Beyond eadmode[de] pa. t., O.E. Horn, i, p. 17, this is the only occurrence 
of this verb, and direct descent from O.E. eadmodian is doubtful. 

3 For instance firsen, Juliette 17, beside the normal firsin * remove, 
abandon ' of AB. But this should be firren (a synonym of firsin). There 
are a few cases of s/r confusion, but they are not necessary to explain this 
error. In these texts contamination of synonyms, always possible in 
copying and found frequently at all periods, is specially easy owing to 
the stylistic trick of using together two alliterative synonyms (often ety- 
mological variants ]ikefolhin and fulien). One of these (to the sense) 
unnecessary words was often dropped, or the two blended. An interesting 
case of contamination may here be noticed by the way, and as a warning 
to the seekers after occasional spellings : A 64/26 has ofsaruet, but this 
is not an early example of er>ar, but a contamination of of-seruet with 
of-eamet, both familiar words of identical sense (being different stages 
in the translation of deservir) in A and B. 


out of about 1,000 instances only about 8 remain as certain 
' exceptions' after examination (e.g. blixsen, subj. Katerine 846, 
R. blissin). Whether these, out of the many hundreds of 
instances, are sufficient to make copying by a 'fonden ' scribe 
a necessary explanation, I leave to others to decide. Person- 
ally I have no doubt that if we could call the scribes of A and 
B before us and silently point to these forms, they would 
thank us, pick up a pen and immediately substitute the -in 
forms, as certainly as one of the present day would emend 
a minor aberration from standard spelling or accidence, if it 
was pointed to. 

This is only a brief and inconclusive sketch of one item of 
the comparison between A and B, but I believe it offers some 
evidence suggesting, if not demonstrating, that A and B are 
uniquely related, and that the events in the textual history of 
each took place within less than a generation and round about 
A.D. 1225. 

I append in illustration, and as a sample, a list of the verbs 
of the class discussed that have a recorded O.E. etymon, and 
also appear in A B in at least one of the special forms requir- 
ing I or ie by the rule mentioned above. 

This list will serve not only as a sample of evidence for 
this sound-law \ but also a fair sample of the unity of 
phonology and spelling of AB. I have recorded every variation 
of spelling in these lists that 2,355 instances (about) could 
provide. The forms presented are not my normalizations, 
but the standard forms of language (AB). The amount of 
variation is in fact exaggerated, since many of the recorded 
variations are very rare and probably accidental : e. g. easkin 
AB, 34 times, eskest in Katerine, once. [Certain regular alterna- 
tions have been disregarded : e.g. etc for ku (lokien, locunge)', 
see, sc (jiscen, jisceunge).] 

I. fondin-cl&Bs. A and B : blescin, blissin, bi-blodgin, 
chapin, cneolin, acou(e)rin and courin, adeadin, ? eadmodin, 
earnin and of-earnin, easkin (eslc-), eilin, elnin, endin, erndin, 
euenin, falewin, fe&erin (feSrian), festnin, (uestnin) and 
unfestnin.Jirsin.folhin.fondin, fostrin, freinin (? frsegnian), 
frourin, gederin, granin, grapin, grenin (grenian), grennin, 


parkin, jiscin, halsin, bi-he(a)fdin, heardin, hearmin, hercnin, 
hihin, hondlin, hongin and ahongin, latiin, lechnin, leornin, 
likin and mislikin, limin (limian) and unlimin, lokin and 
bi-lokin and luuelokin, milcin, muchlin (muclin), mun(e)gin, 
murfrrin and amurfirin, 'nempnin, offrin, openin, pinin, 
reauin and bi-reauin, bi-reowxin, riketiin (recenian), saluin, 
schawin (shawin), sme&iu, sorldn, sundriu, 8un(c)gin, sutelin, 
timbrin, tukin to ivutulre, pon(v)kin, preatin, a-prusmin, 
purlin, wakenin and awakenin, walewin, wardin, warnin, 
wergin (wergian), wilniii, windwiti, wiuiii, wohin, worliij 
wreastlin, iwtindi'u, wundrin and awundriu, vnirsin, ^vur&g^n 
(wurdgiu), and uiwuurfyin. 96. 

A only: bemin (beinian), birliti, blindfe(a)llin (l)litit-), 
bwhin, bridlin, clad in, deansin y clutiti and bi-dutiii, colin 
and acolin, druncnin, \feattin, gnuddin (O.E. gnuddian), 
godin, greatin, keowin, herb(e)arhiii, Jmngrin and ofhungret, 
hwntiti, niea&elin, neappin, se(c)din, seowiu, stoppin and 
forstoppin, bitacnin, teohetfin (teogojnan), totin, or-trowin, 
Peostrin, winkin 9 wlispin. 35. B only : beddin, cleaterin, 
doskin, eardin, *ferkin ' feed V hersumin, hoppin, leanin 
(hlaenian), lickin, lutlin, medin (median), motin, ravin, 
smirkin (smercian), stupin, teonin, wepniu, biwihelin. won- 
drin, wonnin (wannian). !20. 

II. /o^eTi-class. A and B : blikien, bodien, carien, cleopien 
and bi-cleopwti, cwakieti, cwikien and a-cwilcwn y fre(a}mien, 
gleadien, gremien, heatien, herien, forhohien, hopien, leadieu, 
liuien (and libben), lutieii and ed-l alien, luuien and bi-luuien, 
makien, munien (and munnen), ondswerien (ont-, on-), 
rolien andfor-rotien, schapien, scheomien, schunien, slakien, 
smirien, spealien (spelian), spear ien> sturien, swerien (present 
stem only, remainder strong), talien, temien, trukien, peauien, 
Pollen, wakien, werien 'defend', wonien, wreodien, ^vunien 

1 H 538 feskin swdfoskm. A sense 'swaddle ' impossible to etymo- 
logizeis given in the glossary. The alliterative grouping with./osfcm 
clearly points to O.E./erct'an, which is chiefly recorded in senses * provide 
for, provide with food ', though this is the only case of the sense in M.E. 
There are other cases of s/r confusion (here aided byfostrin) : e. g. goder 
st God's, 710. 


andflurh-wunien, (and imvuniende). 46. A only: druhien 
and a-druhien, fbr-druhien, filcien, jeonien, holien, leonien, 
notien (' partake of ', refl. ' be employed ' l ) and mib-notien, 
prikien, schrapien, smeo&ien ( forge ', tilien, werien ' wear' (and 
pp. pi. for^verede), wleatieu 'nauseate'. 15. B only: bea$ien, 
borien, dearie n, yristbe(a}tien, leodien (licSian, l&r$ian), readien 
(aredian ; see note). 6. 

Here we have, counting separately verbs with and without 
a prefix, about 218 verbs : fo ndin-cl&ss 151, and the less 
numerous /oZ^<m-class (which contains none the less some very 
common verbs) 67. The number of occurrences of i or ie 
forms is about 1,081, of other forms about 1,274, in all about 
2,355. The number of irregular forms not clearly due to 
misunderstanding of the context or other scribal accidents, 
and which are not consistently used in A and B, are about 6 
in number. One or two, however, of the verbs here appear- 
ing in the flolien-cl&ss have been, or still are, credited with 
a long stem- vowel in O.E. I append a note on these cases : 
lutien (edlutieii), trulcien, (a)druhien, wleatien, gristbeatien, 
readien. O.E. lutian and trucian are now generally admitted 
on other evidence ; the forms of AB should make Ifdian and 
trucian disappear finally. O.E. (d)drugian is still always 
printed with a long stem- vowel, but since the occurrences in 
metre are not decisive for this, and a short vowel is perfectly 
possible etymologically, we may assume with fair certainty 
drtigian it must be remembered that the evidence for the 
regular working of the rule in AB is in fact much greater in 
volume than even the large number of cases provided by 
inherited verbs. The long mark should also disappear (as now 
usually recognized) from O.E. wlatian and wlsetta. Here we 
have the additional evidence of the regular AB ea for O.E. # 
(dialectal ea) in open syllables, and of the rhyme in The Owl 
and Nightingale 854. 

1 A 46 v/17 fienne ha servid wel pe ancrehare leafdi, hwen ha notieJ ham 
wel in hare sawle neode. Here the clear and decisive forms of A put the 
meaning and construction beyond doubt, both of which are unclear in N 
(and the translation p. 178). Note the distinction between notien and 
notin * note \ 


readien has not, I believe, hitherto been allowed to be an 
O.E. verb or properly interpreted. It provides an example of 
the service to etymology of an analysis of AB. Its only 
occurrence is in tiaiules Warde 81 : for pet ne mei net lunge 
teller (sc. kwuch is helle), ah after pet ich mei fy con per towart 
ich chulle readien. The sense ' discourse ' proposed by Hall 
(E.M.E. ii. 501, 511) does not fit per towart at all, quite apart 
from the fact that the required etymology (a formation from 
rsed) is against the present rule. O.E. a-redian, ge-redian, 
provides us with a satisfactory form (for the ea spelling 
cf. freawieu, v/>etil'ien), and aredian (to) 'find the way to, 
make one's way to ' with a satisfactory sense ' according 
to my power and knowledge I will make an effort in that 
direction '. 

gristbeaiien is a more difficult case. In our texts it occurs 
only in Jul. pp. f>7, 69, gristbetede, (jristbeatien (R. grispatede, 
grixpatien} ; for A.R. (N) p. 326 gristbatede A has risede 
c trembled '. O.E. gristbatian is usually given a, owing to 
the apparent etymological connexion with bitan, grisbitian, 
although such a vowel-grade in such a formation is abnormal. 
A shortening of the element -bat- y either phonetically or under 
the influence of the synonymous gristbitian, before the M. fi- 
de velopment began, will probably be conceded, so that we 
need not consider this form as an isolated exception (supported 
as it is by R). My faith in the language of AB is possibly 
excessive, but I would go further and suggest that the O.E. 
word was grisbatian *gristb$atian and never had a long vowel. 
Shortening from -bdtian is unlikely in view of the secondary 
accent that is required, and the clear apprehension of the 
composite nature of the word (shown in the B and Layamon 
spellings). A shortened form -bfitian from -bdtian would fit 
well enough as the antecedent of the forms outside B. 1 But 
the B forms do not fit. Reduction to an obscure vowel is in the 
nature of the case ruled out even for the form gristbetede. A 

1 In addition to those of R and N there occur : Layamon 1886 grist- 
batinge, and 5189 gristbat, possibly an error for the preceding ; XI Pains 
of Hell '248 gristbatynge of tefoe ; O.E. Horn, i, p. 38 waning and granting 
and topen grisbating. 


variation 4 AB ea, e R and other texts a ' points in all cases to 
O.E. a (Germani<5 a not a secondary shortening) in open 
syllables, as in the cases gleadien, heatien, wleatien, above. In 
this case, of course, the etymology of gristbatian is obscure. 
I suspect that it is a partial assimilation of some other word, 
by chance not recorded, to gristbitmn (a purely English 
formation). 1 


1 * gristgramian ? Cf. O.H.G. grisgramQn t mod. German Griesgram\ 
O.S. gnstgrimmo. The granting and gnsbating of the homily for the first 
Sunday in Lent may be a last trace of this and due to an older original. 
G rawing occurs, I believe, nowhere else, and emendation to granung has 
heen suggested ; but the homily does not use -ung. Otherwise it has 
some forms closely allied to (AB) : see above. 



VOL. I, 1910 








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VOL. Ill, 1912 



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VOL. V, 1914 







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H. C. WYLD. 


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V. JOSEPH WARTON : A Comparison of his Essay on the Genius and 
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H. C. WYLD. 




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VOL. XIII, 1927 







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